Los Angeles will be better positioned to get to zero waste with a commercial waste and recycling collection restructuring approved by city council, according to a leading proponent of the proposal.

The plan would establish 11 franchise zones of varying sizes with one hauler per zone, says Andrea Alarcon, president of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works, in an interview. The commercial sector and multifamily dwellings with five units or more will be affected. The public sector residential waste and recycling business is unaffected.

Alarcon says that with the current open market system the city isn’t able to regulate the business, push diversion targets and establish labor standards. Los Angeles currently is at a 72-percent diversion rate. “We believe this proposal will take us to finish line,” she says.

Alarcon says the Department of Public Works and the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation now have 90 days to develop an implementation plan for council with the consideration of a variety of options. She says they may establish small zones for smaller haulers to participate in the program. Another proposal calls for a mandatory subcontracting minimum in each zone that could have a smaller hauler working in concert with a large one.

Once that plan is adopted, Alarcon says three things need to happen: officials develop an environmental impact report (EIR); the city drops the existing ordinance; and the public works department develops and issues a request for proposals (RFP).

Opposition for the proposal has come from various sources, including Los Angeles-based lobbying firm Cerrell Associates, representing haulers, and the Chamber of Commerce.

Alarcon says fears are that rates will skyrocket under an exclusive system and that it is anticompetitive.  She says the city did an independent study that determined that the comparative rates for basic service was similar; it was only the addition of more aggressive goals and pricing that raised the rates.

She disagrees that the proposal is anti-competitive. “What they’re competing for is extraordinarily valuable,” she says. “That will drive them to put the most competitive bid forward to get it.”