09/09/2010: "$5 To Recycle Starts Oct"
Effective October 1, 2010, people bringing only recyclable materials to solid waste facilities in San Juan County will pay a flat $5 fee. Recyclable materials include co mingled recycling, batteries, oil and antifreeze.
The fee will not be charged to people who also bring garbage or other types of waste for which there is already a fee. For instance, customers disposing of small amounts of trash will continue to pay only the existing $12 minimum garbage fee whether or not they also bring recycling.
Utilities Manager Ed Hale said that residents and visitors make approximately 80,000 recycling-only trips annually to County waste facilities on Orcas, San Juan and Lopez Island, so the fee could raise as much as $400,000 per year.
Hale and Public Works Director Jon Shannon have both warned the Council that the fees now being charged on garbage have reached the point where further increases would likely encourage customers to take their garbage elsewhere and thus actually reduce total revenue. The Town of Friday Harbor is currently sending its garbage “packer” trucks to dump in Skagit County because, despite the additional time and ferry fees, its overall disposal costs are lower than sending the trucks to the San Juan County facility on Orcas and paying the County’s tipping fee.Shannon and Hale described the recycling “trip” fee as a means to stop the utility’s operating losses, but noted that there is currently no money available to cover existing debt or the cost of making several hundred thousand dollars worth of improvements to the County’s sites required by regulatory authorities.
On August 24th the Council authorized approximately $259,000 worth of compliance-related work to be done at County solid waste facilities on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez Islands. The utility fund is already $630,000 in the hole and the Council is still debating how to raise additional funds to finance repairs and improvements to the facilities or to further reduce costs.