County weighs recycling rate hike to offset increase costs

The cost of recycling would rise from a flat $5 fee to $3 per can under a proposed fee increase,  - Journal file photo
The cost of recycling would rise from a flat $5 fee to $3 per can under a proposed fee increase,
— image credit: Journal file photo

The cost of recycling at the San Juan Island and Orcas Island drop-boxes could be going up, to $3 per can, if the County Council accepts a recommendation by the Department of Public Works.

If approved, the new fee would replace the current charge of $5 per cubic yard, which equals up to six 32-gallon cans of commingled recycling.

Utility Manager Ed Hale and Public Works Department Director Frank Mulcahy presented the new fee to the council Nov. 27 as a way to pay for an anticipated increase in hauling and disposal costs, until the private companies selected to operate the two transfer stations take over facilities sometime next year.

Hale estimates that Public Works will pay about $20,000 more a month, from Jan. 1 to May 1, to extend its current contact with Waste Management for disposal of recycled materials. In 2002, the county and Waste Management inked a 10-year contract for disposal of garbage and recycling that will expire at the end of the year.

The proposed increase would not affect the drop-box facility on Lopez Island because the recently created Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District will be up and operating by 2013. The district, rather than the county, will be responsible for the disposal expenses it incurs.

Although transport costs for garbage will also rise until the Orcas and San Juan facilities are privately operated, the increased costs will be covered by a portion of the 16 percent solid waste excise tax already in place.

Hale explained that contracts for private operations by Orcas Recycling Services and Ken-Tec Energy USA should be completed by the end of the year, or shortly thereafter, but that it may take the two private operators up to three months to assume control of the facilities.

The council is expected to decide on the proposed increase at a Dec. 18 public hearing.

— Steve Wehrly/Journal reporter

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