In an ongoing experiment to determine the best way of delivering recycling services, the City of Chicago has been divided into six zones, four of which are being serviced by private sector companies and two that are serviced by city employees.

During the first quarter of competitive bidding, Chicago has saved $1 million (a 31% reduction) on the cost of their recycling program. The City’s crews lowered the price-per-cart from $4.77 at the beginning of the competition to $3.75 per cart for the month of December (a 21% reduction) by using flexible scheduling, more efficient routes, and fewer crews. The private sector competitors are delivering their services at an average of $2.70 per cart.

The city uses two employees per truck (a driver and laborer), whereas the private companies can do the job for less because they use only one person per truck and the vehicles are outfitted with “tippers” that pick up the curbside containers and dump the contents into the truck. Utilizing one employee allows the private companies to increase the number of stops drivers make every day.

This spring, at the six-month interval, Chicago will evaluate the recycling cost data and move forward with the best plan to provide recycling services for the city.

What do you think about public employees competing with the private sector to make the delivery of government services smarter, faster and cheaper?