Too many truckas truckin’ on my street
Walk down the main drag in Edinburgh on a weekday morning and you will find a nonsense of food-waste trucks (nonsense = collective noun for lorries). 10+ different vehicles collecting from 100 customers. Access times are restricted but you can still end up waiting behind each other, stacked horizontally, sucking diesel from the exhaust in front. The picture is the same across the UK – everyone having a go at the pudding.
Over in the states they operate a sensible policy – ‘single hauler contracts’. Cities and towns end up with one commercial contractor which handle all their municipal waste. This has several advantages, some of them being:
- Cost per customer lowered
- Higher quality of service
- Reduces traffic on the streets
- Reduces environmental harm
It’s worth noting that US states don’t have a state/council service as in the UK, nonetheless for trade customers all the above remain relevant. The end play of this system is a few huge players dominate, which depending on your view of capitalism/entrepreneurship/politics may or may not be positive.
In order to curb (hoho) some of the traffic on the streets in Edinburgh the council have introduced windows during the day during which commercial waste can be picked up. The goal is to reduce unsightliness and improve hygiene on the pavements. All eminently sensible but it would be a far less painful process for the customer if they had only to deal with a single service provider. Right now you can feasibly have four different waste collectors for food, oil, glass and general. It’s now wonder they’re such an unpopular bunch when operating in an increasingly fragmented and competitive market.
My view is competition is healthy for innovation so I’m not advocating the introduction of single hauler contracts. As I’ve already laid out the sector is ripe for disruption. But loads of trucks buzzing around causes everyone a headache so I’ll be discussing means of managing this in the next posts.