EL CERRITO -- The city will get immediate financial benefit from extending a contract for garbage collection services with East Bay Sanitary, the business responsible for providing garbage collection here for the past 71 years.

The extension, from 2018 to 2025, will cut customer rates by about 2 percent in 2013 and provide about $100,000 to the city next year from a 2 percent hike in the garbage franchise fee, according to a staff report.

East Bay Sanitary will begin maintaining the city's fleet of recycling trucks, resulting in a $25,000 annual savings.

The company will also join in creating an offset account to reduce upward pressure on rates that comes from the continuing trend of customers doing more recycling and moving to smaller garbage cans.

"This eliminates a disincentive to reduce landfill waste and provides lower, more stable rates," said city environmental analyst Garth Schultz.

The City Council approved the extension, which came after more than a year of negotiations with the company, at its Tuesday evening meeting.

The move to extend the contract started with a rate review by consultants that found El Cerrito's garbage rates were roughly on par with the average for neighboring communities.

The city's environment services staff evaluated the report and decided that the benefits of the extension outweighed any advantages of putting the contract out for bid at a later date.

El Cerrito residents pay $2.77 less per month than the West County average for a 20-gallon can and $2.55 more for a 35-gallon can, according to the report.

East Bay Sanitary also collects green waste weekly, while pickup in neighboring West County communities is less frequent, the report said.

"The (refuse collection) industry is going through change and transition," said Mayor Bill Jones. "What came out of the (rate) review is a partnership."

The council also moved to rein in behavior at its new Recycling Center, where residents have complained about people who are removing large quantities of re-sellable material, such as scrap metal and cardboard.

Theft of recycling results in a loss of revenue and increased insurance liability for the city when people jump into bins to collect the material.

City staff is preparing a form that will require customers who want to remove materials to identify themselves and their plans for the material, Schultz said.

Patrons will still be allowed to take away small amounts of recycling for art projects or other such activities, he said.

The action won't affect the Recycling Center's Book Exchange or any other area where materials are typically reused rather resold.

The council will do a final review of the policy next month and the new rules could go into effect as early as January.

Averages of 500 to 550 customers per day use the Recycling Center on weekends compared with about 250 to 300 per day when the center opened in April, Schultz said.

Earlier in the evening, El Cerrito received a Community Sustainability Award from the International City/County Management Association for its San Pablo Avenue Streetscape Project. Council members accepted the award in a presentation by the city managers of Millbrae and Daly City.