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Recycling fees coming for all self-haulers; money generated will help stengthen Solid Waste's bottom line

The days of free recycling are over.

On Nov. 30, the San Juan County Council gave preliminary approval to recycling fees that would primarily target self-haul customers. If approved, those fees would go into effect beginning Jan. 1.

Though prices have yet to be finalized, the council opted for fees that would function on a sliding scale, meaning the amount one pays depends on the volume of recycled materials, rather than a flat $5 fee that applies to each and every load regardless of size.

Councilwoman Lovel Pratt, South San Juan, said that a flat fee would be unfair to those with smaller loads.

"It just doesn't make sense," she said, adding that the price the county pays for having recycled materials hauled to the mainland is determined by the ton.

Others agreed with her.

"To come in with a packer truck full of recycling for only $5 doesn't make sense," said Councilman Howie Rosenfeld, Friday Harbor. Still, Rosenfeld said efficiency could suffer if the price-volume equation becomes too elaborate or overly complicated.

"It's important to keep this as simple as possible for staff, because they're having to eyeball things," he said.

Currently, those who self-haul pay $5 to dispose of recycled materials at any of the county's three solid-waste facilities; however, that fee does not apply when one disposes of garbage at the same time as well. Recycling fees are expected to generate roughly $240,000 a year, according to the Department of Public Works. The fees are expected to strengthen the Solid Waste Division's bottom line.

While the fees have yet to be determined, the council backed the concept of having different prices for small, medium and larger loads, ranging from $5 to $20 to $100, respectively. The council, which directed the Public Works Department to produce a set of volume-based fees, is expected to weigh in with a final decision Dec. 7.

According to Public Works Director Jon Shannon, the county franchise hauler, San Juan Sanitation, and the Town of Friday Harbor, would be excluded from paying recycling fees under the current proposal.

The council also approved an interfund loan totaling $1 million, cobbled together out of revenue from five separate funds, to bolster the bottom line of the Solid Waste operation in the coming year.

Along with proceeds from the pending sale of two properties partially owned by Solid Waste, which are earmarked for purchase by Public Works' Equipment Rental and Revolving Fund, the Solid Waste Division — a $2 million a year enterprise — is expected to remain in the black in 2011.

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