Harrison County

It’s after 8 p.m., do you know where your garbage can is?

Waste Pro, who had the Harrison County garbage and recycling contract, will ride off into the sunset at the end of September.
Waste Pro, who had the Harrison County garbage and recycling contract, will ride off into the sunset at the end of September. Sun Herald File

Although it increases rates and reduces the days of service, Harrison County officials hope they’ve negotiated a new garbage/recycling deal that will improve reliability, reduce litter and stabilize rates over the long haul.

Yes, the new contract with Team Waste of Biloxi, which goes into effect Oct. 1, will increase the rates charged to the cities in the county to about $14.36 a month per household (about $2.50 more that they’re now paying). And yes, that charge will be passed along to those households. And yes, it will reduce the number of days garbage is collected from two per week to one.

But the contract that covers the county and all its municipalities except Gulfport, which is negotiating its own deal, also will attempt to increase recycling to keep more of that household waste out of garbage cans and into recycling bins. That, in turn, will keep more garbage out of the landfills, which will decrease the amount of money the Harrison County Utility Authority pays to those landfills, said HCUA Executive Director Daniel Scharr.

There will be Radio Frequency Identification chips in the garbage carts, the wheeled garbage cans that will be similar to those Harrison County households now are using. The recycle bins will be replaced by 35 gallon wheeled “carts” that also will be chipped. There will be GPS equipment on the trucks.

“We can verify the trucks are actually servicing the streets and homes,” he said. “We’ll know what truck. We’ll know if it went down your street. If you say ‘I put my cart out there and they didn’t pick it up.’ We know they picked up the garbage on either side of you and what time they picked it up. And there are actually cameras on the truck so if (it didn’t get picked up), chances are you didn’t get it out in time.”

It’s a little too Orwellian for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has complained about the RFIDs and cameras in other states, but Scharr said the purpose is to hold the contractors accountable, not spy on people.

“We’re actually keeping retainers; we’re withholding one and a half percent of their contract,” he said. “And we have given them a fairly lengthy list of items. It says if you don’t do one of these things, we’ll give you 24 hours to correct it.”

If the contractor fixes the problem in 24 hours, it will get full payment. If not, it will be fined. It also will be fined automatically if litter blows out of an uncovered truck, Scharr said.

“We’ll review it quarterly and release whatever is an appropriate amount on their retainage,” he said. “If they do a great job, we want them to get all that money.”

They plan to make a big push to increase recycling. Data collected from the chips and cameras will help them pinpoint areas where few people are recycling, areas where they’ll try to increase it through an outreach program. Scharr has no such data now, but he suspects as little as one percent of the households recycle.

Those nosy carts are an expensive item. Scharr estimates they cost about $50 each and at the end of the contract in 2023, they will become the HCUA’s property. They’ll still have four years on their warranty so Scharr expects to be able to save money in the next contract by not having to include new carts.

There will be three separate routes, garbage and recycling run by Team Waste of Biloxi and a separate route for rubbish (yard clippings, branches and other debris). HCUA is negotiating with Pelican Waste, a Louisiana company that will open a Coast office, for the rubbish contract.

The Team Waste contract was the result of a complex bid process by a team of former and present HCUA personnel who sorted through four bids that contained hundreds of options. The finalists were brought in for interviews with the HCUA board.

“We had a base proposal, we had four separate options, we had three different additional service line items and eight different alternates,” Scharr said. “We asked for prices with Gulfport participating as part of the authority and without Gulfport.

“In the four bids we had somewhere around 120 to 140 line items in different combinations to look at. And some of those included doing just what we are currently doing: twice a week garbage.”