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Island's trash hauler is now a subsidiary

For a man who spent most of his working life in a business that is literally trashy, Ben Vincent had staying power.

Vincent, who owned and operated trash hauler Island Disposal, Inc., since 1969, sold his business Monday, turning over the garbage truck keys to the fourth-largest waste disposal company in the United States.

Starting on New Year's Eve, Whidbey Island trash collectors went to work for Waste Connections, a 5-year-old, $350-million company based out of Vancouver, B.C. Though they will continue to drive trucks under the Island Disposal name, the men and women who collect the island's garbage are now reporting to a boss other than Vincent for the first time in almost 33 years.

As he finished cleaning out his office at Island Disposal's Coupeville truck station Wednesday, Vincent said he is getting out of the disposal business to spend more time with family and on other pursuits.

"I think the time is just right," he said.

In selling, Vincent decreases by one the number of independent trash haulers in the burgeoning waste disposal industry. Garbage is big business in the United States. While Waste Connection's yearly earnings numbers are impressive enough, the nation's largest trash hauler, Waste Management, topped $12 billion in revenues in 2001, said Waste Connection manager Brent Ditton.

Even though Island Disposal is now part of his company, Ditton said the business will change little. Current office manager Annette Dotlich and general manager Don Sousa will run the company locally. Island Disposal's 15 trucks will continue to do seven residential routes and up to four commercial routes daily, while employees at the business' trash sorting center will continue an 11-year program of removing recyclables from the garbage.

"From our perspective, it should be completely seamless," said Ditton of the change in ownership.

Whidbey Island's garbage disposal industry has changed since the company was founded by Al Camandona more than 50 years ago. Trucks can no longer dump their loads in a landfill -- all the island's trash is shipped off-island to an Oregon facility.

Vincent said increasing "tipping" or dump fees forced him to hold customers to exact trash volume limits over the years. Those fees topped $105 a ton a few years ago, but are now at $85. But as a result of the spike and garbage rules penned by Island Disposal, about 75 percent of Island Disposal's 10,000 customers throw out one can of garbage per week.

Island Disposal recently received permission from the state to increase its garbage rates about 6 percent. Ditton said customers should expect no price increases in the near future.

Island Disposal serves every area of the island except Oak Harbor, which has its own trash disposal service.

Neither Vincent nor Ditton would discuss the selling price for Island Disposal.

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