LAUREL — Last month, the Forrest County Board of Supervisors awarded Laurel-based Enviro Inc., a family-owned waste management company, a five-year deal to service approximately 7,000 households beginning Feb. 1, 2003, when Browning-Ferris Inc.’s (BFI) contract expires.
The service contract is the latest turn of events in South Mississippi’s garbage wars. Earlier this year, Enviro Inc. lost its contract with Jones County when the board of supervisors decided to purchase several trucks and enter the garbage collection business.
“Before that, we serviced a total of more than 20,000 households,” said Enviro chairman M.L. Bush. “Now we have about 4,000. We’ll probably pick up another 5,000 when the Forrest County contract takes effect.”
Enviro still services households in Lucedale, Ellisville and Heidelberg, and in Harrison and Jackson counties.
Enviro will furnish 96-gallon carts to Forrest County homeowners, who will pay $29.80 per quarter for the waste removal service. Enviro has a fleet of 26 automated trucks and 15 trailers, and plans to acquire two additional trucks to accommodate Forrest County households. Each truck is equipped with an eight-foot automated claw-like arm that grabs and dumps trash from the carts into the hopper.
“Unlike traditional waste disposal operations, which have a couple of workers placing bags in the hopper, the automated truck will eventually require only the driver to operate it,” said Bush. “It’s a much more efficient operation, but the biggest advantage to the general public and the area as a whole is that it eliminates unsightly roadside litter. I’ve seen loose piles of bagged garbage where animals have torn into them and scattered trash all over, and I’ve seen people use four posts lined with wire where they place their garbage, and they’re unsightly, too. Jackson County is going to this type of arrangement starting early next year and Harrison County is also in the process of converting to automated operations. I think you’ll see more counties going to this type of service.”
Enviro will haul the garbage to the Pine Belt Regional Solid Waste Authority landfill located in Perry County, located two miles north of Runnelstown. The $10-million landfill, the newest and most modern of its kind in the state, began operating about six years ago and belongs to Covington, Jones, Perry and Stone counties, and Hattiesburg, Laurel and Petal. BFI hauls trash to its landfill north of Jackson.
“Prices run $40 to $50 a ton (for waste disposal) where you don’t have competition, but because of the landfill near Runnelstown, prices in the Pine Belt are in the low $30s,” said Bush. “If they get a little more volume in, it’ll be even less than that.”
Economically, it would make sense for waste management companies to dispose of garbage at a landfill located near the removal site. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial 1994 Carbone decision ruled that “flow control,” the means of a municipality to direct waste to a particular facility, violated the Commerce Clause. Local governments have contested the ruling, saying that without flow control, long-term planning is impossible. They argue that bonds issued to finance disposal facilities would be in jeopardy and that local governments’ credit ratings would be in danger of being downgraded.
“Since then, several U.S. district and appeals courts have said it’s all right for a municipality or a political entity to specify where its waste goes,” said Bush. “The Pine Belt Authority is in the process of doing that…and it’s getting nasty. BFI and Waste Management are fighting it hard because the only landfill south of I-20 in Mississippi that doesn’t belong to Waste Management is the Pine Belt Authority.”
For example, Waste Management picks up garbage at Ellisville State School for 96