Bags or cans? Frequently asked questions about Little Falls garbage pick-up

The city of Little Falls answered frequently asked questions about garbage pick-up. A discussion and possible decision about garbage pick-up – bags/cans – or bags is planned by Council Monday, March 20

Over the course of the past 11 months the City of Little Falls has been working with three haulers: City Sanitary; Otremba Disposal; and Bob LeMieur Roll-offs, Refuse, and Recycling negotiating a system of garbage collection for residential customers. The City Council gave direction to add garbage carts (garbage cans with wheels) as an option for the residential garbage collection. In the fall, the city and the haulers reached an agreement on a cart only system, and a price for that service; however, once this was presented, concerns regarding the cost of the service, the fairness in charging only one price, and that people still had a preference to use the bag system were brought to the Council’s attention.

In order to gauge the resident’s interest in sustaining the bag system in some form, the City sent out a survey that asked residents based on prices that were based on an all bag or an all carts system, not a combination of the two. Receiving about a 40% response rate and the results were fairly equal with 51% choosing carts and 49% choosing bags. This survey turned out to be both good and bad for implementing any change to our garbage collection system. Good because of an excellent response for a survey, with useful input about the proposed changes, and it exposed resident’s concerns about creating equity in the prices for garbage collection. Bad because the results were a worst-case scenario in providing a mixed system of carts and bags at the lowest price, also the prices identified in the survey wouldn’t be achievable, and that it may have created more questions than answers for people responding. Let me try to answer many questions that we have been receiving in past few weeks and months.

Why is a 50/50 of bags to carts the least cost effective?

Answer: In order to negotiate the best prices for the residents it is necessary to craft a system that gains the garbage haulers the most operational efficiencies, which would be either all bags or all carts. The difference in the system is how the trucks and staff pick up the trash containers. Bags can be efficient despite having more staff on the routes because the collectors can place the bags strategically in the truck, and it doesn’t take as long for the collectors to pick up each bag and get it into the truck. Carts can be more efficient because the hauler can purchase a truck with an automated collector or a side-arm that grabs the cart drops it into the top of the truck. This system requires only one operator on the truck and can pick up as many customers in the same time as two or more collectors picking up bags. Thus, a mix of bags means that the haulers have to accommodate both methods and loses the efficiencies gained from either one; therefore, added time to the route, additional cost of staff, and more cycles of their truck to compact the trash.

What is the City Council going to be discussing on Monday, March 20th?

Answer: The City Council has proposals for a system of collection with a mix of bags and carts, and a price for a system of all carts. They will likely be choosing either the mixed system or an all carts system. The proposals result in the lowest minimum monthly cost being the all cart system with a 32-gallon cart, when you factor in the cost of the garbage bag; however, they have heard the input from the community about their interest in keeping bags as part of the collection, and are willing to discuss this as an option.

What is proposed cost of mixed collection with carts and bags, and the cart only collection?


2017 – Bags & Carts 2017 – Only Carts
Garbage  $ 9.80 / $12.50 / $16.00  $       11.00 / $14.50
Garbage Admin  $             1.00  $         1.00
Solid Waste Tax  $ 1.05 / $1.32 / $1.66  $       1.17 / $1.51
Bags  $ 11.85 + $3/bag  Not available
Cans – 32  $           14.82  $       13.17
Cans – 64  $           18.66  $       17.01
Recycling  $             3.25  $         3.25
Rec Admin  $             1.20  $         1.20
Totals with Recycling
Bags  $ 16.30 + $3/bag  Not available
Cans – 32  $           19.27  $       17.62
Cans – 64  $           23.11  $       21.46


Why are bags and a 32-gallon cart in the mixed collection the same price, if I use one bag per month?

Answer: By collecting bags along with carts, the cost of operating goes up, thus it is not a savings in operating to have bags. The bag cost at $3/bag also ensures that the bag users are either truly the lowest volume garbage producers or they are paying a premium for their preference to use bags.

Why not just keep bags?

Answer: The City Council gave direction to offer cart collection because there have been numerous complaints regarding the bags getting ripped open by animals and garbage strewn all over. People have expressed that they prefer to have a cart collection service, and some residents actually pay both a City drive-by fee and for another hauler to have a cart. This duplication of service also puts additional wear-and-tear on the city streets; therefore, offering a cart option should remedy that problem as residents will have a cart option if they choose it.

What can a 32-gallon cart and 64-gallon cart hold?

Answer: A 32-gallon cart can hold roughly 1 ½ of the current city garbage bags, and a 64-gallon can hold roughly 3 of the current city garbage bags. The 32-gallon cart is rated to hold 122 lbs, and the 64-gallon cart is rated up to 224 lbs.

Where will my garbage be picked up, alley or street?

Answer: That will depend on where you live, but if you’re currently being picked up on the street it will stay on the street; however, picking up carts in the alley may not be feasible and they may have to switch to the street side.

What day will my garbage be picked up or will my pick-up day change?

Answer: To be determined, the haulers will have to determine how they will run their routes, so it is possible that your pick-up date could change.

What is going to happen to the recycling program?

Answer: The recycling program will remain in place as is, and is still highly encouraged.

What happens if I can’t fit everything in my cart for the week?

Answer: For the time being you will need to purchase a city garbage bag of your hauler’s color for an additional fee of $3 and place that alongside your cart for the week. Otherwise, recycling, composting, or hauling large items to the county landfill should be able to help you prevent exceeding your cart’s capacity. If you are in a smaller cart you can move up to the larger cart; however, we will likely restrict decreasing cart sizes to only once or twice a year. We will also offer having multiple carts for weekly collection; however, you will pay additional monthly fees for those options.

Am I going to be able to switch my cart size, from bags to carts, or carts to bags?

Answer: Yes, but only on a limited basis. Everyone receiving garbage service will be given a choice prior to the roll out of any change. Once selected you can always switch up to a bigger size or from bags to a cart, but there will be limited times when you can switch down in sizes.

Will this be weekly pickup?

Answer: Yes, all pickups regardless of bags or carts will be weekly.

What if I want to provide input to the Council before they decide?

Answer: It is advised that you call, email or speak to council members or mayor and give your feedback on the proposals. If you wish to speak at the Council meeting Monday, March 20, please arrive before 6:15 p.m. and you may speak during the public forum at the beginning of the work session. It is requested that residents who speak provide their name, address and keep their comments to three minutes or less.

Residents who have further questions may contact City Hall at (320) 632-5500 and staff will try to address them. Any change in the system is going to take time to implement, and city staff and the Council will be having continued discussion about implementation to answer more questions.