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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 will I know if my company is proposing a rate increase? All companies are required to file for, and receive prior approval, for rate increases from the UTC. Your company is required to inform all affected customers of a proposed rate increases at least 30 days before the requested effective date. Customers may comment by writing to the Commission at PO Box 47250, Olympia, WA 98504 or by email at comments@wutc.wa.gov about any proposed rate increase.

    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:
    • The date of the bill.
    • The date the bill becomes delinquent.
    • The company name, address, and telephone number where you can call to receive information and resolve disputes.
    • The amount or percentage of taxes or fees that the company collects on behalf of governmental jurisdictions.
    • The basis for each charge assessed (Each charge must be listed as a separate line item).
    • The total amount due.
    • The amount or percentage of any penalty fees for late payment.

    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:
    • You did not comply with state, county or municipal law concerning the service (for example, you did not use the appropriate container).
    • The company considers conditions too hazardous or impractical to provide service.
    • Someone else currently living with you has an overdue bill with the company.
    • You have an overdue bill with the company for the same class of service at the same or different address.
    • You obtained service by fraudulent means.
    Once I am signed up for service, can the company refuse to pick up my solid waste? Yes. Service may be refused when:
    • The company determines that, in its judgment, an unsafe or harmful condition exists that prevents it from safely collecting the garbage. (e.g. ice on roads)
    • Garbage containers are not easily accessible from the street, alley, or road.
    • The company determines that, in its judgment, driveways or roads are improperly maintained, turnarounds are inadequate, or there are other unsafe conditions.
    • Cans exceed capacity or weight limits set forth in the company’s tariff.
    • You are not in compliance with state, county or municipal laws.
    Can the company skip a pickup due to poor weather conditions? Yes. A pickup may be missed due to weather or road conditions. The missed garbage can be set out as an “extra” for the next regularly scheduled pickup, weather and road conditions permitting, at no extra cost to you. Individual companies may make additional efforts to collect missed pick-ups.

    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.

    FIRST NOTICE:
    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.

    SECOND NOTICE:
    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)

    Main Number
    (360) 664-1160

    Web Site
    www.wutc.wa.gov

    E-mail
    Consumer@wutc.wa.gov

    Mailing Address
    Washington UTC
    P.O. Box 47250
    Olympia, WA 98504

    Location
    1300 S. Evergreen Park Drive SW
    Olympia, Washington

    To request availability of UTC publications in alternate formats, call (360) 664-1133 or TTY: 1-877-210-5963.

     

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