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Smart Consumer Guide: Residential Garbage and Recycling
Being a smart garbage and recycling collection customer makes sense. By knowing how your service works, you can save yourself time and money and choose the service that best fits your needs. This booklet contains answers to questions most frequently asked by customers of garbage and recycling companies regulated by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). If you are served by city employees or by a company under contract with a city, these answers might not apply. Contact your city’s solid waste department for more information.
How can I learn more about the rates my company charges?
- Companies can send you a copy of their rates.
- A copy must be available for public inspection at the company’s office.
- You may also review company tariffs (rates) at the UTC headquarters in Olympia or request a copy be mailed to you.
- The tariff may be available electronically or on the Commission’s website.
How is my garbage rate determined? Many factors contribute to the cost, including disposal and equipment costs, drivers’ wages, taxes, compliance with local regulations, and administrative expenses.
How does the UTC decide whether to approve a rate change? The UTC staff examines all rate increase proposals to determine whether the request is fair, just, reasonable, and sufficient. This review includes an audit of the company’s expenses. Letters from the public are also considered. After this review, staff will make a recommendation to the three-member commission at a public meeting at which customers are allowed to speak about the proposal. The UTC may choose to approve changes proposed by the company, grant lower rates, or postpone the rate increase for further investigation.
Is there any way I can lower my collection bill? Yes, if you are able to reduce the number or size of containers you put out. Contact your company to determine which options might work the best for you. There are also many excellent free publications available on recycling. Call the Washington Department of ecology’s Recycling Hotline at 1(800) RECYCLE.
What if I have a dispute or complaint about my billing, pick-up, or other issue regarding garbage service? Contact the company first and attempt to resolve the complaint. If the company is unable to resolve your dispute, you have the right to speak with a supervisor. If, after speaking with the supervisor, you are still dissatisfied, you have the right to contact the UTC. You may file a complaint in writing or by calling the UTC, toll-free, at 1-800-562-6150. Complaints also can be filed through the UTC's web-site. After receiving your complaint, staff will contact the company and work with the company and with you to resolve the dispute.
What information must be shown on my bill? All solid waste bills must clearly show each of the following items:
Can the company assess a late charge on my bill? Yes, if the company has a late charge that has been approved by the UTC. The company can assess a late charge for accounts that remain unpaid at the time of the next regular billing or 21 days past the bill’s mailing date. The date the company can assess the late charge must be located on your bill.
Will I have to pay extra charges when I put out certain items for pick up? Yes. Certain kinds of waste require special handling. These items include asbestos, acids, concrete, hazardous substances, hot ashes, oils, solvents, and tires. If you want any of these items picked up, you will probably be charged at a different rate or charged additional dumping fees. Many companies also charge for items such as overweight, overfilled, oversized, elevated, or sunken cans as well as for long driveways. Call your solid waste company for specific information.
Can a solid waste company refuse to provide me service? Yes. A solid waste company may refuse to provide service for any of the following reasons:
Does the company have the right to discontinue my service if I don’t pay my bill on time? Yes. You may lose service if you fail to pay your bill or make payment arrangements, or if you have violated the rules or service agreements agreed upon at the time you began service.
Will I be notified before my service is discontinued?
Before a company can discontinue service it must provide two cancellation notices.
Must be mailed to the billing address. The notice must provide a cancellation date and time which must not be less than eight business days following the mailing before stopping service if the notice was mailed from within the state of Washington, and eleven business days if mailed from outside the state of Washington.
Before discontinuing service, the company must make at least one additional attempt to reach you either by telephone or by personal delivery. The second notice must be made at least twenty-four hours before the cancellation date and time specified in the first required notice, and must allow the customer until 5:00 p.m. of the following business day to comply.
If a company chooses to provide a second notice by telephone and is unable to speak with the customer on the first attempt, at least one additional attempt must be made. If a customer has provided the company with a business or message telephone number, the second attempt may be made to that number.
If personal delivery is chosen for the second notice, the company must make at least one attempt to contact the customer in person. The company may personally deliver notice by placing a written notice or tag on the customer's solid waste can, container or drip box or on the primary residence door.
When must I pay a deposit for solid waste collection service? Generally, homeowners and customers with good credit records will not have to pay a deposit. If you do not have a satisfactory credit rating, you might be required to pay a deposit before service can begin.
When will I get my deposit back? When you pay your bill promptly for 12 consecutive months, your deposit is either applied to your current account or refunded to you. In either case, you will get your deposit amount plus interest. Prompt payment means you cannot have received more than two past-due notices within the previous twelve months.
Can I choose another company to pick up my garbage and recycling? Probably not. In Washington, our legislature wanted to be sure that every customer, no matter how remote, is offered efficient and cost-effective service. The legislature decided the best way to do that is to assign a specific territory to each garbage company, and then the garbage company can spread the costs out evenly to all customers in that area. The Commission controls the area a hauler serves, and is responsible to set fair, just, reasonable and sufficient rates. Most areas of the state are served by only one company.
How to contact UTC
Consumer Affairs Services
1-800-562-6150 (toll free)
P.O. Box 47250
Olympia, WA 98504
1300 S. Evergreen Park Drive SW
To request availability of UTC publications in alternate formats, call (360) 664-1133 or TTY: 1-877-210-5963.
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