HUDSON — Columbia County will charge seniors a reduced rate and out-of-county customers double to use the county’s recycling services as the county looks to charge fees for a system that has been free since it started.
The county also plans to charge Hudson and Greenport, which each have their own contracts with the county Department of Solid Waste that includes pick-up, like commercial haulers at $20,000 each.
The county had scheduled enactment of a new fee system for the recycling system, which has fell on hard times recently, at the county Board of Supervisor’s Oct. 10 meeting, but the Public Works Committee, which considered the resolution that night tabled the issue. The county’s recycling has been free since it started the program in the 1989.
The committee discussed the issue again at its meeting Wednesday and laid out some aspects of how the system may work. At the meeting supervisors agreed to set the age of seniors starting at age 65 and to charge people from outside the county double to use the service.
County Department of Solid Waste Jolene Race laid out how the department plans to charge customers for the recycling service: $50 per household and $35 for seniors.
“I don’t like the idea of paying a fee,” said Copake Town Supervisor Jeffrey Nayer. “We recycle at my house. I used to use a private provider. If I have to pay $50 for recycling through the county that is still cheaper than what I was paying a private provider.”
The county’s recycling program, like many across the U.S., has hit hard times as prices for recycled materials have plummeted after China — one of the biggest buyers in the recycling market — stopped accepting foreign recycled materials.
“We are getting $100 a ton to get rid of materials now,” Race said Wednesday. “Maybe one or two years down the line everything could rebound, but it could not.”
Columbia County collects about 2,600 tons of paper, plastic and glass a year, Race said in August.
The Columbia County Solid Waste Department budgeted about $70,000 to handle 2018 recyclables, and by July, the county had spent that money - forcing the department to draw from other funds to continue operations.
Race projects costs for recycling will reach $250,000 next year.
“There are some people who use the service station in Canaan who are from outside the county,” said Stuyvesant Town Supervisor Ron Knott, chairman of the committee. “We should charge those people more, because a lot of this program is still funded with county dollars.”
Race has received many calls about the county’s plans to charge a fee for recycling, she said, but most of the calls involve complaints about new protocols that limit what materials will be accepted for recycling.
The county contracts with Casella Recycling to process its recycle materials and the new contract the county signed in August limits what will be accepted for recycling so as to reduce contamination of the materials that reduces the profitability of the materials. To reduce the risk of contamination, Casella is not accepting items with plastic coating or wax-coated paper.
The committee also discussed what the physical permits for use of the service, which people could obtain at either at town clerks’ offices or at the service stations, will look like.
Customers have to drop their recycling off, except in Greenport and Hudson, at one of the nine service stations throughout the county, a list of which can be found on the solid waste department’s website.
Supervisors agreed that a sticker to be placed on the inside of a car windshield is the best option for a physical permit.
“I like the idea of a sticker on the windshield,” Nayer said. “It is there. And no one can say that they forgot their permit.”