The Borgatello family's MarBorg Industries has been the City of Santa Barbara's exclusive trash hauler since 2009. | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

The Santa Barbara City Council unanimously approved a new agreement with longtime trash-collection partner MarBorg worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 15 years. According to the new contract, the city will continue to pay MarBorg the flat rate of $18,695,000 over the next two years (with a one-time adjustment for fuel costs in 2025), with the rate gradually increasing from 2026 through the remainder of the agreement, for a total sum of more than $300 million.

After operating in Santa Barbara for more than 80 years, MarBorg took over the local trash-hauling territory in the early 2000s, eventually winning exclusive rights to the entire city in 2009, firmly entrenching itself as Santa Barbara County’s only remaining full-service trash and recycling operation. Last July, the City Council opted not to open up the contract for competitive bids, further cementing the company’s hold on local waste removal services.

After a few months of negotiations, the city returned with the updated contract for council approval on Tuesday. City Environmental Services Manager Lorraine Cruz Carpenter presented the new franchise agreement, which will take the place of the current contract when it expires on June 7.

The new agreement met many of the city’s objectives, including a more “efficient” curbside cart program, which she explained would apply to residential customers with fewer than four units. Under the new program — which she said was a move away from the more “labor-intensive” methods to a new system with “automated and wheeled carts” — MarBorg employees will no longer come up driveways onto the property to collect cans. 

Instead, customers have to “opt in” to an unspecified premium charge to continue on-premise collection (individuals with disabilities or over the age of 80 will be accommodated at no extra cost). 

Other changes include “enhanced neighborhood” collection services for bulky items, a 48-hour turnaround for abandoned waste reports, and household hazardous waste collection events at centralized locations. The new agreement is also up to date with new state regulations for compliance and reporting, and outlines a plan to move toward zero-emission vehicles “as they become technologically and economically feasible,” Cruz Carpenter said.

The city will pay the same rate in 2024-25, with a one-time adjustment for fuel costs; the following three years of the contract will increase annually according to Consumer Price Index for garbage collection up to 5 percent, with an extra 2 percent to offset money spent on new trucks and carts; and the remainder of the contract will increase at CPI rate capped at 5 percent.

The new agreement will go into place June 8, with new and enhanced services starting this July and the small residential curbside cart collection program starting July 2024.

[Update/Correction: April 19, 9 p.m.] This article originally stated that the premium on-premise collection charge would be $90. According to city staff, the current on-premise charge for small residential customers (one to four units) is $40.92. Starting July 1, 2023 this charge will go up to $41.21.

The fee for 2024 has not been officially announced but will likely be very close to the current charge. In 2025, when the city makes the full switch to wheeled carts, customers who opt to stay with on-premise can collection will pay the “in-place/on-premise service” charge. According to Acting Environmental Services Supervisor Bryan Latchford, this fee will go into effect July 1, 2025, but the city will not know this charge “until the cost analysis is done.”

“Our new contract prevents us from charging less than it costs MarBorg to perform the service,” Latchford said, “but we expect the fee to remain pretty close to the existing in-place charge.”


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