Clarifying purpose of ‘Benchmark’ trash fee

Editor:

I recently received for the first time, communication of any kind in the form of a mailed brochure from a company called "Stop-Waste/Benchmark." The brochure offered (also for the first time) the potential to "opt-out" of having charges added to my Alameda County Industries (ACI) bill and gave a deadline of when to do so.

The phone numbers on the pamphlet are busy 24/7 and the website has no promised area with which to opt out! Since this really began to smell, I investigated further.

My brother, who is an attorney, said that this is no different than unwanted "crammed charges" on a cell or landline phone bill. Whoever "StopWaste" is, its cause may be noble; but legally it needs to inform ACI customers before having its bill violate the law of Informed Consent.

Especially since none of us have ever heard of them or it before. How could that take 8-9 months for them to get around to letting citizens know they’d be "charged unless customers opt out" but then make that process difficult to impossible.

Pulling out my trash/recycle bills after phoning ACI, I became angry when I discovered that their uninformed charges occurred not just for our lone trash can last spring without my knowledge or permission; but also fraudulently for my blue and green recycle bins.

ACI says it’s just an "innocent error." ACI and Stopwaste both claim it’s just a small annual fee, but we’ve been billed several times for something we had no clue on nor gave permission the last two quarter billing cycles months before StopWaste’s brochures were mailed out finally last week. Now ACI claims they "have no responsibility" and that "this other company, StopWaste is an unrelated third-party biller.

— Michael Lano

Editors Note: ACI has nothing to do with this fee; it is following a government directive. The fee in question is authorized under Public Resources Code section 41901 and the Alameda County Waste Management Authority Joint Powers Agreement.

StopWaste is not a private company. It is part of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority. Benchmark is one of StopWaste’s programs. Benchmark anonymously measures how much recyclable and compostable material is in garbage containers in Alameda County, analyzes these measurements and sends reports to garbage service account holders describing what was found and what the account holders can do to reduce waste.

The Alameda County Waste Management Authority directs ACI and all other waste-management companies to add the Benchmark fee to every household’s bill. All Alameda County households with less than 4 cubic yards of waste were billed $1.81 on July 31, 2013. Customers not wanting to pay Benchmark service fees in future years have until March 31 to opt out and avoid paying the fee that will be due July 1.