The National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) recently filed a suit against the City of Dallas in U.S. District Court to stop the implementation of a flow control ordinance.
Effective January 2, 2012, the flow control ordinance would require commercial trash haulers to dispose of all of the solid waste, including loads of recyclable materials that have even a trace amount of waste, collected in the city to Dallas' single landfill located in the far southern sector of the city.
The suit calls flow control "an anti-free-enterprise action by the city that is contrary to both state and federal law."
"It is clear from the history of this ordinance that its sole purpose is to generate revenue and not to address any health or safety issues or any other problem with the recycling or disposal of commercial waste in the city," says NSWMA attorney Jim Harris of the law firm Thompson & Knight. "Instead of increasing recycling, the ordinance will actually decrease recycling and may even endanger the city's residential recycling program."
"This ordinance also would rewrite long term contracts the haulers have with the City that allow them to get the best deal for their customers by using competing landfills and other existing recycling facilities," says Tom Brown, Texas Chair of the National Solid Wastes Management Association. "The City is rewriting the contracts to create a monopoly at the McCommas Bluff landfill so it can address budget shortfalls. The law doesn't allow the City to renege on a deal just because of tough economic times."
Lawsuit says flow control violates franchise agreements
The lawsuit notes that the franchises granted to waste haulers by the city place no limitations on where the material collected can be taken.
The ordinance "prevents the franchisees from collecting and disposing of solid waste in the most-cost effective manner dictated by the market," says the suit.
NSWMA members have estimated flow control will cost Dallas businesses $19 million a year in higher costs.
The lawsuit also calls into question the city's claims that flow control is a necessary precursor to an aggressive recycling program that would turn "trash to treasure," saying that this claim is "demonstrably not factual."
"The city has no current or foreseeable future capacity to turn trash into treasure, even assuming such a transformation is practicable," says the suit.
Flow control could end current recycling programs
The suit notes that, as written, the flow control ordinance "would also prohibit the recycling efforts of the franchisees and their customers, efforts that have successfully diverted hundreds of thousands of tons of materials that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill."
The ordinance allows loads that consist of "solely" recyclable materials to be taken to facilities other than the city's landfill, says the suit.
However, industry experts say even the city's own residential recycling program would be upended by this provision because even residential recyclables contains some waste.
Dallas Sanitation Director Mary Nix says "... the ordinance requires you to take it to the landfill if it's not solely recyclable."
It was always about money
According to the lawsuit, flow control's "...sole and avowed purpose is to generate revenue for the city by imposing new solid waste and recyclables management fees on private parties and taking fees that are lawfully earned by other private parties and diverting those fees to the city to address revenue needs."
No answers -- No time to prepare
The lawsuit calls the flow control ordinance "broad" and "vague" and, given the dramatic reduction in disposal locations with no operational assistance from the city, the solid waste industry has inadequate time to order equipment or make other operational changes necessary to comply.
A recent meeting between major waste haulers and the city's sanitation director Mary Nix resulted in no meaningful answers and contradictory comments concerning how the ordinance will be interpreted and enforced.
The suit is available at http://www.environmentalistseveryday.org/docs/NSWMA-Dallas-Complaint-as-filed-111811.pdf