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Mandatory garbage pickup service in Ferndale gets another look

FERNDALE, Wash. — During the final regular Ferndale City Council meeting of 2020, Councilmember Paul Shuey requested a proposed code amendment ordinance be taken off the consent agenda and placed on the regular agenda so it could be discussed by the whole council. The proposed code amendment updated a section pertaining to garbage pickup and disposal – a section last updated in 1979.

Shuey did not express concern about changes to be made to the code but he was concerned about a couple items that were being left unchanged. Those points were,

  • Requiring resident and business addresses within the city to pay for a minimum level of garbage collection service
  • The garbage collection service with the franchise within the City may place a lien on a property in the event of non-payment for service

After some discussion and a failed attempt to approve the ordinance, it was decided to send it back to the Public Works & Utilities Council Committee for further discussion. The item has recently been scheduled for the Committee meeting scheduled for 8am on Wednesday, February 10th.

In addition to reviewing the changes proposed, a discussion over the merits of making garbage collection mandatory is expected.

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Paying for a minimum level of garbage collection service has been mandatory by the City for decades. Changes proposed under the ordinance would make a similar arrangement for recycling pickup mandatory for residential properties as well.

As in Ferndale, garbage pickup is mandatory in Bellingham and Lynden with no option for an exemption.

Whatcom County and City of Blaine have made garbage collection mandatory as well but allow for anyone to be exempt by declaring in writing that they will dispose of their garbage “in an environmentally sound way.”

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The minimum level of garbage pickup service and resulting cost for single-family residential customers varies by area as indicated on the table below.

AreaMinimum service levelMonthly Cost
Bellingham60-gallons bi-weekly$14.99
Lynden68-gallons monthly$12.40
Whatcom County30-gallons monthly$10.32
Blaine30-gallons monthly$10.32
Ferndale30-gallons monthly$8.37
Costs do not include excise and state refuse taxes

City staff said in their report to the Council Committee that they support keeping garbage pickup service compulsory.

Waste collection is similar to many other utilities: water, sewer, stormwater, electric. Each of these relies on near-universal customer participation, as there is the expectation that the utility will serve not only those customers who are easy to serve, but those who could not or would not otherwise be serviced by a private business. By establishing an expectation for universal service, and by having the assurances that there will be such service, these utility providers are able to reduce or moderate costs for all consumers.

All of the opt-out provisions that Staff has researched include an agreement from the resident or business wishing to opt out that they will transport their waste to an agreed upon or environmentally friendly location. And while such an agreement does have the theoretical force of law, it also leaves substantial room for misuse, be it through the accumulation of garbage onsite (thus creating a nuisance), depositing waste in an environmentally unfriendly manner (along roadways), or depositing waste in public waste receptacles – therefore shifting the burden to other residents.

Staff would expect that most residents that would make use of an opt out agreement would adhere to the agreement. However, most likely some would not – and ultimately, Staff questions whether the savings or peace of mind that those residents would experience by not working with SSC would be worth the potential impact to the rest of the community.

Staff report regarding modifications to Ferndale Municipal Code 8.04 (February 8, 2021)

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