Beginning this month, Mt. Lebanon will have a new trash collector, and residents will see a few minor changes in the routine.
When the municipality solicited bids for the new contract, only two vendors responded: Waste Management, which held the 2018-2023 contract, and Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill. The Commission chose Westmoreland to receive the contract, which is estimated to total $18,278,495 over the five-year life of the contract.
The first-year cost of the new contract is 33 percent higher than last year’s price, with an additional 9 percent increase for the four years following, starting at $3.053 million and progressing to $4.31 million in the last year of the contract.
While that number looks alarmingly high, it’s not too far out of line with inflation, which according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, has increased by more than 24 percent since the previous contract was signed in 2018. In 2023 Waste Dive, a trash and recycling industry publication, reported that tipping fees—the cost of dumping and disposing of trash—at municipal solid waste landfills saw an increase of 11 percent from 2021 to 2022, amounting to a 15.4 percent increase over 2018 figures. Tipping fees in the northeast are the highest in the country, with an average of $75.92 per ton.
FUNDING THE INCREASE
After awarding the contract in June, Commission and staff began looking at the fairest options for paying for trash and recycling collection. Historically, trash collection was paid for from the general fund, the lion’s share of which comes from real estate tax revenue. If that were to continue, millage would have to increase, phased over the life of the contract, from 4.91 mills to 5.64. A mill is $1 of tax money for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.
Commissioners evaluated a range of options, including cutting municipal staff, to offset the cost. In the discussion about funding, Mt. Lebanon Finance Director Andrew McCreery said that while some residents will inevitably be upset by the increase, “Most people will understand. We have to pay for this. You want your trash picked up, and we have to pay for it. It can come from a fee, or from reduced services, it can come from a whole host of things, but this is the largest contract we have.”
The full cost of the trash hauling contract will be pulled out of the general fund budget and paid for by an annual fee per household, in much the same way it is handled in many communities. Mt. Lebanon has 13,700 households, according to census figures, although only 11,075 are subject to the fee, since landlords collect trash for the higher density residences.
The annual fee will begin at $290 per household in 2024, gradually increasing to $316 in 2025, $345 in 2026, $375 in 2027 and topping out at $410 in the contract’s final year. To partially reduce the pain, property tax millage will be reduced, from 4.91 mills to 4.50 mills. The Commission left some funding to pay for essential capital projects.
Residents will be billed for the trash fee in same manner as the stormwater fee. Payment will be accepted online and by mail. To make it easier, you also will be able to check your account online. Get all the info at www.mtlebanon.org/feepayments.
WHAT’S CHANGING, WHAT’S STAYING THE SAME
Westmoreland will continue to collect up to 15 bags of trash per week, and an unlimited amount of recycling. Residents will not be required to purchase new trash containers, which would have been necessary if the contractor did automated collection. Recycling containers must be clearly marked with a sticker (available at the municipal building), and any cardboard placed outside a recycling bin could be collected as regular trash.
The number of bulk items collected will be halved, from two to one per week.
Bi-weekly recycling will remain, but under the new contract, all recycling will be collected on the same week. No more “odd” and “even” weeks. The first recycling week will be the week of January 8, which means some residents will have to go three weeks between recycling collection.
The municipality will send a LeboALERT in the trash/recycling category to remind residents of when to put out their recycling. As time passes and residents get into the habit, the alerts will taper off.
A quick recap: Trash must be bagged before being placed in a trash can; bags/cans should not weigh more than 50 pounds, and must be placed within 5 feet of the curb.
Trash and recycling must be out after 6 p.m. the night before your collection day, or prior to 6 a.m. on the day of collection.
Empty and dried latex paint cans are acceptable, but may not be in bags, and must have the lids off. To dry excess paint, fill the can with newspaper, kitty litter, or paint hardener.
Items not accepted for recycling include shredded paper, mirrors, plastic bags or wrapping film, meat or dairy plastic or paper packaging, clothes hangers, paper plates, diapers and food waste.
Westmoreland is including glass in its list of recyclable materials, but with a caveat. Window glass and Pyrex are not acceptable. You can recycle clear, blue, green and brown glass food and beverage containers at curbside.However, Mt. Lebanon will continue to operate the glass dropoff bin at Village Square Mall, and we encourage residents to drop their glass off there, or at the Michael Brothers facility in Baldwin. According to the nonprofit American Chemical Society, glass collected in a single stream, as with the dropoff bin, yields a much cleaner supply of recyclable materials, allowing for more than twice the amount of glass to be recycled, as opposed to glass collected in a multistream.
Christmas tree pickup has changed. Public works employees will pick up the trees the week of January 8 and January 15, one day before your regular trash day. Leave your tree at the curb after you’ve removed all decorations, lights and tinsel.
The December issue of Mt. Lebanon Magazine contained a recycling schedule and guide. If you did not receive one, you can pick one up at the municipal building, or download it from the municipal website.
*This story corrected on February 13, 2024 to delete a chart with incorrect tax projections due to a number transposition error and to correct the number of households subject to the new fee.