Opinion

Fee for recycling is only fair | Editorial

June 9, a Journal employee once again loaded up a pickup truck with recyclable materials and headed to the solid waste transfer station.

The employee’s vehicle waited in line as three other motorists emptied their recyclable containers into the big bin. Then, the Journal employee backed in, dumped four containers of office-related paper and plastic, and two containers of paper and plastic from home, into the bin and drove off.

All for free.

Which begs the question, “Why?”

People who use the solid waste transfer station for recycling are using the solid waste transfer station. The station must be manned by an hourly employee. The recycling area must be maintained. The road and facilities are equally impacted by those delivering recycling and those delivering refuse.

There is nothing wrong with requiring users of the recycling area to help support the facility they are using.

The County Council is considering a user fee to support recycling services. We agree. We think it’s only fair that users — including us — help support the services we use.

* * *

The San Juan County Council and the Friday Harbor Town Council have established a more professional, landlord-tenant relationship at the solid waste transfer station.

It’s about time.

The Town Council owns the solid waste transfer station site and leases it to the county, which operates the site. Historically, the county has paid a token $10 a year lease, in exchange for lower tipping fees for the town. The town expected the county to maintain the site, but the town did little when the county failed to do so.

The county neglected the site, setting its sights and its investment dollars on a new site. Environmental degradation followed.

That’s all changed. The town and county have signed a new agreement, in which the town will make improvements, specifically a new structure over the tipping floor. This will bring the site into compliance with state standards. The county will pay an appropriate, negotiated lease and, as any good tenant should, will be responsible for maintaining the property it leases.

Should the county choose to develop a new solid waste transfer station elsewhere, the town could choose to operate its own solid waste transfer station. Should the county choose to expand the existing solid waste transfer station, it will do so at a site that meets state standards.

Both sides now have stronger incentive — as if environmental stewardship wasn’t enough ­— to properly maintain the existing solid waste transfer station. County Administrator Pete Rose told The Journal that he doesn’t expect the county’s new lease to affect tipping fees this year. That could change in the future, but the ability of the town to go its own course or even ship its refuse off to Skagit County could help keep fee increases at bay.

We commend town and county officials, particularly Rose and Town Administrator King Fitch, for working out this new partnership.

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