Brainerd forms solid waste committee to address garbage bin issues

Garbage haulers in the city will sit on the committee, along with a city council liaison.

Waste bins sit out for collection Wednesday, Sept. 9, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

With the formation of a solid waste committee, the Brainerd City Council aims to solve issues related to garbage collection, including bins left out on the street days after being emptied.

Council member Dave Pritschet, who represents downtown and southwest Brainerd, brought the issue before the council in July, reporting he received several complaints from constituents about garbage bins being left on curbs and in the right-of-way for extended periods of time. Additionally, garbage cans left out can cause issues for street sweepers and snowplowers to maneuver around.

The city, however, does not have any regulations regarding how long garbage cans can sit out — only that they must be accessible from the street or alley for garbage haulers. City council and staff members determined any regulations that were added, though, would be difficult to enforce. With several different garbage haulers collecting on different days of the week, it would be nearly impossible to determine which cans should not be on the street at any given time. When the term “organized collection” — which past councils have discussed numerous times — came up, the council’s safety and public works committee set a meeting with local garbage haulers to discuss the issue.

In an organized collection system, instead of multiple companies serving throughout the city, the city may contract with one hauler or divide the city into quadrants. Each quadrant would be served by a single hauler.

With the city determining one hauler per area or for the city in general, it ends four to five different haulers traveling with heavy vehicles over the same streets and alleys on a regular basis.


The safety and public works committee and city staff met with garbage haulers Tuesday, Sept. 8, when Community Development Director David Chanski brought forth a possible solution. He proposed creating a map to indicate when collection is to occur in each area of the city. Residents would still be able to choose their company, but haulers would be regulated to pick up in certain areas only on certain days. That way, city staff would know when cans should and shouldn’t be out in each area of the city and could enforce any potential regulations the city council comes up with.

Council member Kelly Bevans, chair of the safety and public works committee, proposed another idea — city staff picks up bins that have been left out after collection at least three times and leaves it up to the haulers to get them back.

In response, council member Jan Lambert asked why the city would penalize the haulers if it’s homeowners who are leaving the bins out. Bevans said because there are four or five haulers in the city but thousands of residents, creating too much administrative work for staff. He added there is also a mutual agreement between haulers and residents when bins are given out, creating some responsibility on behalf of the haulers.

The committee then invited garbage collectors to weigh in, with City Engineer Paul Sandy saying the goal was to find a solution beneficial to everyone.

Eric Loge, Brainerd native and owner of Waste Partners in Pine River, made an impassioned plea against organized collection during a committee meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8.

“I’ve been a proponent for the last 20 years of getting a solid waste committee. I have letters to the city about it, I have correspondence with the city on limiting licenses,” Loge said, noting he has been in the business for about 40 years. “... I’ve done a lot of this work for many, many years, so it frustrates me when I hear people telling me things that should have been done all along, and now it’s my fault.”

Eric Loge, owner of Waste Partners in Pine River, addresses Brainerd's safety and public works committee Tuesday, Sept. 8. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch


Back in 1981, Loge said there were nearly 14 different haulers in Brainerd. Today there are four. Loge said he has suggested the city either limit the amount of hauler licenses it gives out or charge $5,000 for them. The fewer licenses or increased prices would deter companies that only make a few pickups in the city from continuing, creating less wear and tear on city streets.

“If you’ve got all these issues — we know a lot of information. I’ve been doing this 40 years. This is not something new to us. … There’s answers out there. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Loge said. “The organized collection is something you’re allowed to do in the state of Minnesota. I would say that it’s immoral. I would say that you’re taking my business.”

Taking Brainerd customers away from the business he has spent decades building, Loge said, would likely bankrupt him overnight.

“That’s why I’m so passionate about this,” he said. “I want to talk to you. I want to talk to you guys about what are your issues and work through them.”

Talk of organized collection seemingly comes up every 3-5 years or so, Loge said, and causes him many restless nights every time. He said he continually asks the city to open up a dialogue and talk about its issues each time, but once an issue is solved, the idea of organized collection goes by the wayside only to crop up again in a few years with a new issue. According to Dispatch archives, the council discussed organized collection at the end of 2016, but it is not clear what prompted it or what kinds of conversations took place.

Loge said he has studied garbage collection in other communities — like St. Cloud, Waite Park, Royalton and Little Falls — and determined organized collection will not solve the problem of bins being left out. St. Cloud, for example, has organized collection yet still deals with 40-50% of garbage bins left out on streets and alleys, he said.

He also poked holes in both Bevans and Chanski’s ideas. He said it doesn’t make sense for haulers to have to pick bins up from the city and figure out where to return them if the city were to confiscate them, and noted individuals should be held responsible for their actions.

Bevans maintained the garbage haulers owned the bins and should have some responsibility.


As far as picking up from certain areas of the city on certain days, Loge said that would require haulers to shift around their entire schedules, disrupting pickup routes in other cities.

He then asked if the city has done anything itself to try to mitigate the problem — like notifying residents to remove their bins or asked haulers to put a reminder on residents’ bills.

Tyler Gardner, owner of Pequot Lakes Sanitation, attended the meeting by phone and said he agreed with everything Loge mentioned. Gardner added residents need to know about city expectations and that there will be consequences if they don’t comply.

After some back and forth, Bevans said he liked the idea of creating a committee for further discussion, despite his general aversion to committees. He also said he supported asking haulers to put a reminder on their customers’ bills to remove their bins promptly after collection.

“I think there’s a solution,” Bevans said. “... Certainly the best thing I heard was, we can all work better on notification.”

The goal, he added, is self-compliance and notification rather than having to fine people.

The full council approved the formation of the solid waste committee at its following meeting Tuesday and appointed Lambert as the council liaison. The rest of the committee will consist of garbage haulers in the city, and they will meet at least once a year.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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