Cost-Saving Ideas: Evaluating Solid Waste Collection Options

Whether your municipality provides garbage collection services directly or by contract with a private company, citizens must receive the highest quality of service for the lowest possible cost.

To determine if your community’s system of collection is the most cost-effective, evaluate different methods and estimate the cost of each option. The local government, when considering which system of collection to use, should also consult with its legal counsel, as appropriate.

Examine municipal garbage collection

Local governments providing solid waste collection should periodically evaluate these services to see if opportunities for cost savings exist.

There are a number of ways to potentially lower municipal garbage collection costs.

  • Intermunicipal cooperation: For some municipalities, it may be economical to enter into a municipal cooperation agreement pursuant to article 5-G of the General Municipal Law. This can include sharing equipment, facilities or combining collection efforts.
  • Transfer stations: A transfer station may include one or more large containers for solid waste in a centralized location. Transportation costs can make direct hauling of garbage to a disposal site an expensive undertaking. The proximity of a transfer station may make it a lower cost alternative.
  • Updated technology and improved management: Automated collection and the type of vehicles being used may substantially affect the cost of collection services by reducing manpower. Changes in frequency of service, method of collecting recyclables and development of more efficient routes may also help lower costs.

Consider contracting with private refuse companies

Refuse collection costs to residents could drop dramatically if local governments contracted for services on behalf of households instead of requiring households to contract for these same services individually.


  • Control over the days and hours of collection improve safety, reduce noise, litter and pollution.
  • Greater control over community's safety and attractiveness by limiting the number of garbage trucks on its roads.
  • Less traffic from garbage trucks may increase the longevity of municipally maintained roads.
  • Improved ability to implement municipal recycling programs.

Potential concerns:

  • Municipalities may incur increased costs as a result of administering the contract.
  • Residential households will lose the ability to select the refuse hauler of their choice.
  • If the service is to be provided only to properties within refuse collection districts, residents may resist the formation of special districts to deliver the services.
  • • If the contract is funded by real property tax revenues, taxpayers may resist increases in their tax bills.

Seeking Competition

A local government may contact private haulers to inquire about the potential for municipal refuse collection. This may be municipal-wide or in special districts within your town or county. Prior to making an award, the local government should seek competitive bids or, when applicable, use a request for proposal (RFP) process in accordance with the General Municipal Law.


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) provides information about transfer stations across the state.

The NYSDEC also has general information about solid waste composition and characterization in New York State.

See our Local Government Management Guides for best practices in seeking competition in procurement and exploring shared services with other municipalities.

If you have further questions about the legal requirements for competitive bidding or shared services, contact our Division of Legal Services at (518) 474-5586.

Updated 2016