Though it may keep the service in-house, the Newport Beach City Council agreed Tuesday to seek bids from private companies interested in taking over citywide trash collection.
The council took up the issue of outsourcing solid waste removal last year when a study suggested it could save the city millions.
"I want to recognize this is a very challenging issue to deal with," City Manager Dave Kiff told the City Council. "We have great employees who work very hard. It's a tough job. It's a well-loved service, but you asked me specifically to look at all aspects of what we do to make sure we're doing it efficiently and cost-effectively."
The request for proposals that passed unanimously allows bidders to submit bids along two different paths.
One would keep trash collection essentially the same. Recycling would be sorted out of trash after the fact by professionals, and residents would be allowed to use their own containers.
The second path would require residents choose from three sizes of trash carts provided by the service, and residents would have the choice to sort out recycling or leave it mixed with refuse.
The proposal also ask that bidders maintain core services like unlimited pick-up or bulky item collection and consider extra services like electronics recycling.
If the city chooses to outsource, the contract would require a new provider to offer employment to any of the city's retiring or laid-off waste-collection workers, Mayor Keith Curry said.
A staff report estimates the city could save $410,000 annually and sell its trash collection fleet for about $6 million.
The proof will be in the bids though, Kiff noted.
"We may find in the end that there isn't a better system than the current system that we have now," he said. "But I think it's incumbent upon us to look at that."