A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Coffin Butte: The price and other concerns

Written December 8th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

A customer is about to enter Coffin Butte Saturday to dump a load of junk.

Republic Services wants to sharply increase the minimum fee for taking stuff to the Coffin Butte landfill, but the price of dumping is not the only issue that should concern the public.

A notice of the higher dumping fee starting Jan. 1 has been reproduced on Facebook. And from a meeting of the Benton County commissioners on Dec. 4, Bennett Hall reported in the Gazette-Times that the minimum would rise from $28.75 for up to 500 pounds to $85.75 for up to 2,000 pounds.

But Julie Jackson, the municipal manager for Republic Services, told me Friday the new rate was not yet set in stone and any notice of the amount may have been premature. If I understood her right, the company was reconsidering what it would charge at the landfill after the end of the year. (On its website, Coffin Butte by Saturday had eliminated all references to its prices and invited customers to call for pricing information. Its recorded message, though, still had details on fees.)

Jackson did say Republic wanted to raise the minimum to discourage people from taking things to be dumped. The company is concerned about increased traffic at Coffin Butte and says it offers other services, for a fee, such as Dumpsters or picking up things that are too big to fit in the household trash bins.

In the background of all this, there’s the question of how long Coffin Butte can be used before it is full. At the end of 2016, Republic said that at the current disposal rate of about 500,000 tons per year, the landfill would have between 36 and 41 years of life left. (It depends on how much the refuse can be compacted.) What will our successors in this valley do when there’s no place to dump trash at any price?

The landfill is filling up with material from not just local jurisdictions. By tonnage, the county leading in Coffin Butte disposals in 2016 was Marion. It was followed, more or less in order, by Linn, Washington, Benton, Polk, Tillamook, Lincoln, Columbia, Lane, and Clackamas.

If too much traffic is a concern, residents within 30 minutes of Coffin Butte might wonder why they should pay exorbitant tipping fees so that trash haulers from up to 100 miles away don’t have to wait at the scales. In fact, our state policy makers and local politicians, including the Benton officials approving the next Coffin Butte franchise, should explain how it makes sense to haul waste over long distances. Why, for example, can’t Washington County dispose of its trash there? (hh)

The Coffin Butte landfill has risen to a quite considerable height.




27 responses to “Coffin Butte: The price and other concerns”

  1. Adam says:

    All I can say is “Really now”. This is neither good policy, practical or wise. It may however allow Republic Services to make more money.

    The proposed $85.00 fee creates a disincentive to proper waste disposal. It will increase the incidence of people dumping trash (in the middle of the night) on rural public and private property. Public officials have already expressed this concern and would add to an already over burned County work load.

    Some of the justifications expressed by Republic Services for this increase are nothing short of nonsense. One given as noted in the Gazette Times is “The situation can also create potential safety hazards as private citizens with pickups and utility trailers jockey for position with massive garbage trucks”. I have been to the dump on numerous occasions and have never seen or experienced this. In addition, the general public (the pick-up guy) disposes of waste in an area of the landfill that is never used by the large commercial trucks.

    This fee increase is a revenue enhancement program, it’s not about solving problems. When I’m on the scale they usually get about $35 from me but the Semi-truck from Washington County behind me will get them a couple of hundred and I’m in the way. So I get it. Too bad the Benton County Commissioners don’t.

    By the way… dumpsters or large bins don’t work for folks that live on a sloped lot and their pick up services are outrageously expensive.

    Republic Services should be encouraging folks to dispose of waste properly, instead they are putting revenue ahead of good sound proven public policy.

  2. J. Jacobson says:

    Those who didn’t just fall off a truck realize that stuff (in this case Washington Co. Trash) rolls downhill. Due largely to financial horsepower, Washington County Trash carries more oompah than say, Linn County’s detritus. Consequently, it makes perfect sense to drive bespoke Portland-area garbage down I-5 to the Benton County Trash Mountain attraction.

  3. David says:

    How many take a ton or more household junk at one time?

  4. Rolland says:

    So when tipping rates triple in 3 weeks, cities and counties absorb some of the cost as they will be picking up and disposing more overstuffed sofas, chairs and garbage bags that we already see.

    Republic’s solution to point out their own rental services of various dumpsters is lame. I’ve read the Facebook post, news article on the Democrat Hearld and this one, have yet to see Republic note what those rental fees will be in 2019. Having a full size pickup I have made many trips to Coffin Butte, the tipping fee, cost of fuel has been less than half of the current fees to rent a Republic dumpster.

    Time for Republic to come clean on this and be truthful, are the dump fees going to triple for local residential users as well as the commercial haulers bring garbage from miles away?

  5. James Engel says:

    Do any of the readers of this blog recall when S.W. 53rd Ave (west of SW Pacific) was called “Dump Ground Road” as that was where Albany dumped it’s trash back like 50 years ago!!?? I recall a groups of “trashers” at the gate that would pick thru the loads for “booty”.
    Maybe a strong look ought to be made at methods of packaging & the resulting discards of wrapping, planned obsolescence to promote more buying, and using more recyclable materials for dealing with purchased materials. I have watched over the last 50 years that the “hole in the ground” at Coffin Butte grew. At least they are trying to “mine” gases from the site to generate some electricity! What interest archaeologist will have in say the year 2700 to dig thru these burial sites!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Good comments Jim… And back-in-the-day, Coffin Butte was a great place for a kegger or two when I was at OSU. :-)

  6. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Since Republic is running out of room, until we can figure out a better way to dispose of our trash, we’re all between a rock & a hard place. Republic is also. Trying to site a brand new landfill area is akin to planning for a new bridge across the river… Hauling everything to eastern Oregon sure isn’t going to be cheaper and it sure isn’t efficient. And current scofflaws who dump illegally will not change their habits…regardless of the price.

  7. Richard Vannice says:

    Did you know that the Columbia Ridge Landfill near Arlington, Or. is a site that accepts garbage from as far away as Seattle, WA? Why has Oregon become a dumping ground for other states?

    Guess we are lucky that municipalities in Washington and California aren’t shipping the garbage to Coffin Butte —– yet.

    • John Jay says:

      Republic owns the Los Angels market and their landfill (or what’s left of it)….be careful, you may be clairvoyant. Loading up those trains and dumping them off at the Queen crossing. We’ll be back to being known as the smelly city again.

      Awe the joys of the monopoly…

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Being a monopoly is irrelevant in this context. Whomsoever gets your trash/garbage has to “dump” it somewhere…

  8. Roger says:

    Being a monopoly is completely relevant. Pricing is all about supply and demand. In this case, Republic completely controls the supply and as such, can charge whatever they want if not for the issue of being treated similar to a utility and guaranteed a reasonable rate of return. That guarantee also is supposed to insure the public is not gouged. From 28 dollars to 85 dollars because they don’t want to deal with the public? This pricing is not going to fly without serious consequences to Republic the next time they show up and ask local governments to approve price increases.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Don’t conflate the private “dumping” at the landfill with the franchise contract for city-wide garbage disposal. Two different animals…

      • Rich Kellum says:

        Not altogether Ray, our conversation on rates last Monday and Wednesday included a foray into tipping fees as you will recall. They are not raising ours that much because the trucks are always large quantities…

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          While that may be true, there’s nothing in the franchise agreement that deals with/about private dumping fees…

  9. Roger says:

    The Republic franchise contract with the city has a balance sheet that includes tipping fees at the Republic landfill. If the rationale for shutting out the public from the Republic landfill is that it will save them money, it would only seem reasonable that they lower the tipping fees being charged to the arm of Republic who has the contract with the city. Those savings then should be reflected in reduced rates to residents.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      The actual franchise agreement (contract) has no balance sheet nor language about:tipping fees. Pages 25-29:


      • Rich Kellum says:

        You are correct Ray, and because the landfill is a wholly owned entity of Republic the City has no input if that portion of Republic decides to raise rates……. a problem of vertical integration, you have a way out of that for us ???? just think Ray, just a few days you will be able to say exactly what you mean here…:)

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “…a problem of vertical integration, you have a way out of that for us ???? just think Ray, just a few days you will be able to say exactly what you mean here…:)”

          I have been “saying what [I] mean here” from day one… I do not see any total solutions on the horizon. The city granted Republic the franchise monopoly. Sure, “we” could dissolve that, but then what? If anyone believes having a half-dozen or more small independent trash haulers running around town is a solution, they’ve been smoking some of that weed I give away to veterans… Those “independents” will have the exact same problem — where do they haul it & how much do they charge?

          Exactly how much is a “reasonable rate of return?” Good luck managing that… Many folks decry government mandating how they run their business. Laissez-faire seems like a great concept to some folks – until it bumps up to reality.

      • Roger says:

        How did you determine their rate increase was a reasonable rate of return without knowing what their expenses are?

        • Curious Citizen says:

          Hope this helps.. A little eye opening for me…

          ****Republic Services, Covanta Maintain Momentum in Q3 2018****

          Here are a few tidbits from the article..

          “Republic Services’ net income was $263.4 million, or $0.81 per diluted share, for the third quarter of 2018, versus $223.2 million, or $0.66 per diluted share, for the comparable 2017 period.”

          “landfill revenues increased from $576.1 million in 2017 to $590.2 million in 2018”

          [“Improving the customer experience continues to be a critical part of our overall business strategy,” said Slager during a call with investors. “We achieve this by developing and offering products that are designed to meet our customers’ wants and needs and delivering superior service. Doing so helps us retain our customers for a longer period of time and earn a price increase each year. In turn, we successfully raised prices while maintaining our customer defection rate below 7 percent for a third consecutive quarter.”]


  10. centrist says:

    So, they apparently want to reduce the retail traffic. Setting aside the rhetoric, perhaps they need the storage volume to extend use.
    Frankly, many of the high elevation points in the grain belt are disposal sites.
    Might be time to really consider what to do. The traditional tactics (burn, bury, dump offshore) defer the bill to a generation unborn.

  11. Mike patrick says:

    I went on my bi monthly trip to Coffin Butte today. The signs on the doors announcing the rate increase has been taken down. What I observed was numerous semi trucks clearly marked as out of town were in both the entrance and exit lines. There were only 3 or 4 non contractor types of vehicles there.

    A couple of facts that haven’t been spoken about. Coffin Butte says one of the reasons for the increase is because we the people of the local area create unsafe conditions and gridlock. The fact is the mom and pop dumpers are segregated from commercial areas in fact there are not safety issues here in any way.

    The reason for the Gridlock are the scales. There are other alternatives that would allow commercial be separated from public use. If the problem is so great why has this not been put up for consideration?

    And then there is the idea of open back up on Sundays for non commercial traffic like they did for years. This is an obvious solution to much of grid lock issue.

    By the way, I dumped 1,040 pounds for $48.97, a very reasonable rate.

  12. John Jay says:

    Republic Services representative at next negotiation with city council –

    “We are just not going to be able to supply this level of service at these current rates, we realize, as a member of the community, that a $64.28 per month rate is a bit higher than previous contracts but comparatively to other utility services it’s still very low. Case in point, look at the rates for water and sewer. Their distribution is non-mechanical and those rates are close to $100 a month, our distribution is completely mechanical in nature and still is far south of those $100 levels. Obviously citizens that choose, can still tip their own trash for a reasonable price of $85.38 per load and that’s for an entire ton, a value in itself. As the council knows, we’re running out of space in the landfills and there are other municipalities that would love to have these rates, we are protecting this landfill for Linn and Benton counties. We ask that you please work with us and approve these very necessary increases, it’s for the good of the community”

  13. Resident says:

    If anyone has ever dealt with Republic service on getting a dumpster, you would understand why it’s easier to haul it yourself. I spent more time on the phone with someone back east trying to get a dumpster last summer then I would have spent hauling myself. Extremely frustrating process, you can’t go to the local office and get any help.

    • B says:

      The dumpster issue with republic services is out of control. Not only does it take hours to arrange to get one, when you call to have it dumped and removed, they continue to send you bills for “dumpster rental”. I have spent countless hours on the phone to resolve this issue, having to explain to them every time that I no longer have the dumpster.

  14. Resident says:

    The service becomes poorer and costs increase! Republic accepts hazardous waste once a year.The landfill in Anchorage,Alaska accepts hazardous waste(paint,chemicals,etc.)all year.
    Another bit of information is if the lid on your container is not fully closed you can be
    charged for an extra can. I’m not sure what angle of departure from closed the lid can be in order to trigger the charge.

  15. sbruslind says:

    I’ve never forgotten the 2003 “This American Life” piece on Garbage:

    Great Act 3, where the 1997 undercover sting operation breaking mob control of NYC commercial garbage hauling is detailed. Rudy Giuliani made political hay touting the 40% rate reductions as a result of the convictions.

    Within several years, corporate consolidation of the garbage hauling business returned rates to their mob-controlled heights.

    The radio piece concludes, “the only difference between the Majors (corporate) and the Boys (crime family) control of the business is the Majors won’t kill you.
    At least, not on the street.


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