Falls City approves $2 recycling fee

Falls City residents will soon see a $2 recycling surcharge.

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Falls City residents will soon see a $2 recycling surcharge.

FALLS CITY — Steep increases in the cost to recycle materials appear to be stabilizing for Republic Services, which serves several communities in the Mid-Willamette Valley, including Dallas and Falls City, said Julie Jackson with Republic Services.

The increase in cost experienced in the last year requires customers in Falls City to begin paying a $2 recycling surcharge, said Jackson at Thursday’s Falls City City Council meeting.

“A year ago in March, we were getting paid (for recycling) and our rates have always been based on getting paid,” Jackson said. “Now we are paying close to $70 a ton for recycling, where we were getting paid $47, $50 a ton.”

She said the company paid the cost for several month before requesting the surcharge in the communities it serves.

Jackson said last month, the cost to recycle for Republic Services, which takes recycling to a third-party sorter, increased $1 per ton. She said China quit accepting recycling from across the world due to too much contamination. China won’t accept material with more than 0.5 percent contamination, a nearly impossible standard, Jackson said.

The sorters Republic Services ship material to markets in Indonesia and Canada, she said.

Jackson said the recycling system in the United States and customer education needs to improve.

“We know we have to clean it up,” Jackson said. “We know that there’s a big education curve ahead of us, and we also know we have to pay for it.”

Republic Services has information available to the public about what can be recycled and has a “recycling educator” who will speak to groups about recycling. The company has used the slogan, “empty, clean and dry” to describe the condition items for recycling need to be in before they’re placed in the cart.

“There are not very many recyclers in the United States that will take the curbside recycle stream because it is too dirty,” she said.

Jackson added there’s hope that innovation will someday allow more plastics to be accepted as recycling material again.

“We are hearing all kinds of things about entrepreneurship around the Northwest and around the country, with people saying, ‘OK, we probably need to develop our own recycling infrastructure in this nation as well as depending on somebody else to take our trash,’” she said.

Councilor Charlie Flynn asked if it would be cheaper to do away with recycling, at least temporarily.

Jackson said it’s likely that sending all waste to the landfill would be cheaper.

“Basically, you are asking for a $2 surcharge so that we can pay more to get rid of the same material?” Flynn asked.

He said he believes that recycling is important, but if enough of the population eliminated it, it would force innovation and cost reduction sooner.

Councilor Tony Meier pointed out that some residents fill both their trash and recycle carts, so eliminating recycling in town would cost customers more because they would need a second or larger trash can.

Councilor Dennis Sickles said the council should encourage recycling.

“As a society, we need to do what we can,” he said.

The council approved the surcharge on a 5-1 vote, with Flynn voting no.

Jackson said Republic Services will continue its outreach about recycling.

“As an industry, we’ve done a bad job. We’ve always said recycling is free with your service. That is because the DEQ (Oregon Department of Environment Quality) asked us to say that. They said don’t list it out separate because people won’t want to recycle. It’s been a process to encourage recycling across the state, and I think we just are more transparent now,” Jackson said. “Recycling costs money. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s not the cheapest thing to do anymore.”

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