One man’s trash is another man’s $2-million-dollar hauling opportunity. Oak Park’s village board voted Monday to have staff issue a request for proposal (RFP) for municipal solid waste collection for issuance in June.

“This is a very lucrative contract that we have, so we expect some significant interest,” Public Works Director John Wielebnicki told the board during its May 24 meeting. 

Oak Park’s current five-year waste collection contract expires April 1, 2022 but Wielebnicki brought it to the board now in advance of the upcoming budget cycle. 

“We’ve been working on our proposal for several months now,” said Wielebnicki.

Waste collection is financed by taxpayers through the village’s environmental services fund. The village receives primary hauling services under the contract: refuse, recycling, yard waste, food scraps or composting, fall leaf collection and hazardous waste. 

The contract is only responsible for collecting waste in single-family homes up to five-unit buildings. Anything larger, commercial or residential, is not included in the contract, either under village ordinance or state statute, according to Wielebnicki. 

“Those other entities typically do their due diligence searching out other haulers,” said Wielebnicki.

Staff recommended seeking base pricing built on its current program, keeping the size of receptacles, the opt-in composting program, leaf collection and hazardous waste pick-up the same, while looking at possible alternatives for a universal composting program with a smaller cart and changes to leaf collection.

Due to the lengthy proposal, waste hauling companies have a month to respond to the RFP. Wielebnicki expects reviewing submitted applications to take “some time.”

The village is in the process of drafting the RFP. The presentation shown to the board was previously reviewed by the village’s Environment and Energy Commission. Wielebnicki told the village board he wanted to return to the commission to show pricing and receive their concurrence.

Wielebnicki hoped to receive final approval of a hauling contractor by January for education and implementation, so that the village is ready to transition to the new contractor by March. 

Trustee Susan Buchanan asked that the RFP include a commitment from haulers to not sell and ship out to other countries plastics that could not be recycled in the United States. Those items often end up in landfills. 

She told the board she wanted to see the leaf collection program switched to a bagging program, where residents would pay to have their leaves picked up by buying stickers to place on bags of waste. Currently fall leaves are raked into the street and collected by waste haulers.

Trustee Jim Taglia wanted the village to get public input from residents before removing traditional leaf pick up, while Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla was glad to have the village board consider removing leaf pick up from the waste management collection program.

“I haven’t agreed with that expense,” she said. “I think people should just keep their leaves on their lawn because it’s better [for the environment].”

Trustee Ravi Parakkat asked if any measurement metrics across waste categories are in the village’s waste hauling contract. Wielebnicki called the contract “ripe” with metrics, including the percentage of waste collected that goes to the landfill. 

“We consider all the tonnage of everything we collect between refuse, recycling, composting, leaves and yard waste, and then we take out what we’re diverting from the landfill.” said Wielebnicki. “And we are generally in the mid to low 40 percent range.”

The village board unanimously approved the resolution to allow staff to issue an RFP ahead of the expiration of its current waste hauling contract. 

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