Recycling can be part of privatization | Editorial

If the County Council and San Juan Sanitation strike a deal for privatizing garbage disposal, we have one request: Don’t let the philosophy “reduce, reuse, and recycle” be thrown out with the bath water.

County Public Works Director Jon Shannon told the council that, without a significant infusion of money, the Solid Waste Division will be forced to close its waste transfer stations on San Juan and Lopez. The council has reviewed a preliminary proposal from the county’s franchised trash hauler, San Juan Sanitation, which has expressed interest in taking over the trash and recycling operation if the county opts to contract it out.

In its proposal to the council, San Juan Sanitation would still make some provision for self-haulers, but it would increase the current differential between the fees charged for its curbside and self-haul customers. Residential customers would pay about 25 percent more to dump trash into a truck themselves than to have it picked up at curbside. Ultimately, San Juan Sanitation would like to eliminate all transfer stations on the islands and haul directly to the mainland. If that happens, the Orcas Exchange and the Lopez Take it or Leave it would have to move to a new location.

Councilmember Lovel Pratt, San Juan South, and some members of the public expressed concern that privatizing solid waste would conflict with the county’s goals to recycle, reuse and recycle.

We don’t think that’s necessarily true.

As long as San Juan Sanitation offers pick-up rates that don’t discourage recycling, we don’t see how it will decrease our levels of recycling. We already have to pay a gate fee if we are entering the transfer station just to recycle. And, as long as the Exchange and Take it or Leave it are maintained by the community — as they are now — we will still have that vital resource available to us.

Because of Solid Waste’s financial crisis, immediate steps need to be taken. At this stage, we don’t know enough to say with certainty that privatizing is the answer, but as long as recycling remains a key component, we are willing to hear more.

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