Orcas Island, San Juan Island waste transfer stations will close on Saturdays beginning Oct. 3 to cut costs

Beginning on Oct. 3, the solid waste transfer stations on Orcas and San Juan islands will be closed on Saturdays to reduce the Solid Waste Utility’s operating costs.

The utility’s revenue has dropped this year because it is receiving and handling less solid waste, the county announced.

Both transfer stations will continue to be open to all customers Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and on Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The elimination of Saturday hours will reduce the cost of operating the two solid waste facilities by about $40,000 per year.

On Lopez Island, the Solid Waste Utility expects to reduce costs by about $45,000 per year by switching from customer-sorted recycling to the co-mingled recycling system already used on Orcas and San Juan islands. According to Utility Manager Ed Hale, handling co-mingled recycling is much less labor-intensive than the current baling and transportation operation used on Lopez, and is just as effective at reclaiming recyclable materials.

The current Lopez system requires each of the half-dozen types of recyclable material to be handled and transported separately. Co-mingled material can be transported directly to Woodinville, where the recyclables are sorted and reclaimed in an automated plant.

The county’s Solid Waste Utility receives 95 percent of its revenue from fees charged for handling solid waste by weight and collects no fees on materials dropped off for recycling.

Since March of this year, the volume of solid waste tonnage countywide is 21 percent lower than during the same period in 2008 and operating revenue for the last eight months is down by $268,000. At the same time, the utility is facing operating cost increases and state-mandated capital upgrades to its facilities.

Hale said the immediate revenue shortfall is the result of what he expects will be a short-term reduction in solid waste volume, but that a longer-term solution will be needed to fund capital improvements, especially as the utility moves toward building a replacement for the transfer station on San Juan Island.

The County Council is scheduled to hear recommendations from the Solid Waste Advisory Committee on Sept. 14 concerning a new Solid Waste Utility rate structure aimed at solving the longer-term problem.

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