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Sedro-Woolley considering rate increases for garbage, recycling

August 11, 2018

New restrictions on what materials can be recycled are made clear on signs outside the bins at the Sedro-Woolley recycle station.

SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Come January, Sedro-Woolley residents will pay more for recycling services provided by the city and Waste Management.

Residents may also pay more for garbage services in order to keep pace with increasing costs and to add an employee to the city’s solid waste department.

The Sedro-Woolley City Council discussed the coming and potential increases Wednesday.

There’s no question that recycling and garbage rates will increase. Just how much of an increase residents will see on their solid waste bills is what remains to be determined.

A four-part proposal being weighed by the City Council would mean a $4.54 per month increase on solid waste bills for residents with a 68-gallon garbage can and co-mingled recycling, Sedro-Woolley Finance Director Doug Merriman said.

“We are looking at potentially the quadruple whammy here of the recycling going up ... the tipping fee increase on the garbage side, the cost of living increase that goes into maintaining and operating the system, and you have entertained the potential of hiring an employee to work in the system — so that’s the quadruple potential rate impact on solid waste,” Sedro-Woolley City Supervisor and Attorney Eron Berg said.

A major driver of the coming increases is an increasing cost of recycling, which is being felt nationwide.

The costs of recycling materials such as plastic, glass, metal and paper are increasing due to changes China made this year to its policy dictating which items it will accept.

The changes mean companies such as Waste Management are having to send some items to more expensive destinations because China will no longer accept them.

Those increasing costs are being passed on to cities such as Sedro-Woolley, which contracts with Waste Management to haul residents’ recyclables to sorting facilities and ultimately to factories where they’re converted into new products.

Sedro-Woolley is on the front line of this change because its existing contract with Waste Management expires Aug. 31.

The city sought proposals for a new recycling contract and Waste Management — being the only company to provide a proposal — is asking for $115.45 more per ton, according to a city memo on the issue. That’s about a $104,000 increase for the city for 2019.

The city is negotiating a new contract with Waste Management and will present it to the council for approval at an Aug. 22 meeting, according to the memo. The other possible increases would be considered during the 2019 budget process through the end of this year.

To cover the city’s additional costs for recycling under a new contract with Waste Management, residents’ rates would increase Jan. 1 under the proposal the City Council is weighing.

Several council members said it’s clear Sedro-Woolley residents want to be able to recycle, so the city needs to find a way to continue offering the service.

City Councilman Jared Couch said he would like to hear from the community before making a decision about a Waste Management contract, and the council and city staff agreed to accept public comment at the Aug. 22 meeting.

Not only is the City Council considering changes that could increase solid waste rates for households with a 68-gallon garbage can and co-mingled recycling by $4.54 per month, but the portion of that increase from Waste Management may fluctuate.

Berg said because of the remaining uncertainty about recycling, Waste Management has proposed penning the ability for the company to further increase rates within the first 90 days of a new contract, if needed to compensate for changing markets.

Couch said he has concerns about that possibility.

“I fully support the (city’s) recycling program, but I would like to know: What sort of plan can we have in place to halt recycling services if we get to a point where we are priced out of the recycling game?” he said.

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