Rising oil prices have put a damper not only on the family vacation and personal budgets but also on, of all things, the family garbage can.
The reason Mom and Dad are cutting down on the across-town shopping trips also is the reason it's becoming more costly to get rid of egg cartons and food wrappers.
Some cities across the Wasatch Front have already felt the pain at the pump and had to increase garbage-pickup fees and officials in most others say they will probably have to raise rates in the next year as diesel prices continue to increase.
Most cities in Utah contract with companies to pick up residents' garbage.
Waste Management, the largest garbage collector in northern Utah, serves almost two dozen cities in Utah, Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties. The average truck uses about 3.5 gallons of fuel per hour, or nearly 110,000 gallons per month, said Susan Hayward, Utah spokeswoman for Waste Management. The current average price of diesel fuel in Utah is $4.76 per gallon.
"Rising fuel prices are a huge impact," she said.
"We're looking at ways to be more efficient," Hayward added, including designing more-efficient routes and backing up less.
The company normally signs multi-year contracts with fuel surcharges built in, so when prices rise or fall, that surcharge mimics them, Hayward said. The company uses a calculation tied to the national average for diesel fuel, which is reported every Monday by the Energy Information Administration.
Some cities are already raising the cost of garbage pickup. Farmington residents will see a slight increase starting in July. The rate per can will increase by 50 cents a month to keep Robinson Waste's garbage trucks rolling in the city through 2009.
Saratoga Springs, which contracts with Allied Waste, has also seen an increase.
"They give us an amount per year, based on certain levels, and we turn around and charge our customers and they pay us for it," said Spencer Kyle, Saratoga Springs assistant city manager. "The last couple years, our rates have gone up mostly due to gas prices." Residents currently pay $11.45 as a base rate for garbage pickup, but the City Council will be considering an increase at an upcoming meeting.
Sanitation services run by cities and sanitation districts are looking for ways to work more efficiently, whether through better use of their trucks or other alternatives.
Salt Lake City sanitation hope to reduce fuel consumption as part of a citywide directive of Mayor Ralph Becker and the City Council. The city's budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year included a statement of the council's intent that the city develop a plan for reducing fuel usage in city-owned vehicles and explore the use of alternative-fuel vehicles.
Becker has set today as the deadline for city department heads to report on how they plan to reduce fuel consumption in their respective departments.
"It was a massive issue in this budget process," said Shiela Yorkin, spokeswoman for public services. "It's something we're going to be taking a really close look at and creating some more concrete strategies over the next couple of weeks."
Salt Lake City's fleet of garbage trucks collect refuse from 48,500 containers five days a week. Collection routes cover 585 miles, and the diesel trucks travel only about 2.5 miles per gallon of fuel.
One possible cost-cutting move being explored by the city is requiring customers in residential and low-traffic areas to put their garbage cans out for collection on one side of the street. Kevin Bergstrom, deputy director of public services, told the City Council last month that the move would reduce total routes in the city by 228 miles, saving the city about $24,000 a year in fuel.
Yorkin said other cost-saving proposals are in the works.
"It's a high priority," she said. The council set aside $15,000 to be used as incentives for employees to come up with ways to cut fuel costs.
Others are also looking for ways to cut fuel costs.
Salt Lake County's Special Service Sanitation District which serves all unincorporated areas, Cottonwood Heights, Holladay, Taylorsville, Herriman and a portion of Murray is keeping costs down by reducing idle time and using more efficient routes. No rate hikes are planned, and the county may purchase biodiesel or natural gas vehicles in coming years.
Provo owns its own sanitation services, and although costs have risen, the city hasn't yet had to raise fees, said Scott Peppler, deputy public works director for Provo. The city has spent $100,000 more this year than last year on fuel, he said.
However, the city's recycling program green waste, plastics, paper and cardboard recycling has helped cut costs for garbage pickup. More recycling yields less garbage, creating more space in the trucks and reduced landfill fees for the city, Peppler said.
Most officials in the cities the Deseret News spoke with said rising costs may force them to raise rates, but they haven't yet. Kaysville is one city that is trying to absorb the extra cost.
"Because of the increased cost, we are paying a surplus of $600 to $800 per month," said Dean Storey, Kaysville finance director.
The city has a surplus fund to pay for the increased costs, but if they continue to rise, Storey said the city may raise rates.
Several cities on the Salt Lake Valley's east side have long-term contracts and, for now, rates remain stable.
Sandy residents, for example, were hit with increased garbage fees of 50 cents this year though fuel prices have increased at a much greater rate. Future fuel surcharges will be passed on to residents directly. Rates for residents in Draper are expected to stay stable because the sanitation fund has $400,000 in reserve, said Finance Director Danyce Steck.
Contributing: Jared Page, Joe Dougherty, Lynn Wilde, Lynn Arave, Rebecca Palmer
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