Columbia County may charge $50 a household for its traditionally free recycling services to cover the rising cost of processing recyclables.
Columbia County Solid Waste Department Director Jolene Race presented the idea of an annual registration fee of $50 for households utilizing the county’s recycle pick-up service, which has been free since its inception.
Race presented the idea to the county Public Works Committee at its regular meeting Sept. 26 after attending a stake holders meeting Aug. 29 to discuss the increased strain in the recycling market after China — one of the biggest buyers in the market — restricted recycled-material imports as the Asian country seeks to process more of its own materials.
On Jan. 1, China banned recycled plastic and paper imports and tightened standards for accepted materials. Last year, the country announced that it no longer wanted to be the “world’s garbage dump.”
Americans recycle about 66 million tons of material each year and export about one-third of that material. Columbia County collects about 2,600 tons of paper, plastic and glass a year. Greene County collects roughly 3,000 tons of recyclable material each year, Race said in August.
While most recycled material exports once went to China, U.S. scrap exports to China fell by about 35 percent in the first two months of 2018 after the ban was implemented.
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 predicting costs for recycling will reach $250,000 next year.
The county provides recycling services to about 25 percent of households in Columbia County, or about 6,500 households, which could generate $350,000 in revenue if all households agree to pay $50 to register each year.
The county picks up recycling in Greenport, as per the county’s contract with the town. Households in the rest of the county must drop recycling off at one of the nine stations, located at: 51 Newman Road, Greenport; 425 Route 295, Chatham; 2468 Route 9H, Kinderhook; 366 Route 19, Livingston; 768 Route 7A, Copake; 65 Holm Road, Hillsdale; 65 Palatine Road, Germantown; 2180 Route 82, Gallatin; and the recycling station at 22 Route 5A, New Lebanon.
Under the Race’s plan to charge for recycling, participating households will be required to show permits at the stations to utilize the service.
“We would have two options for the permits,” Race told supervisors at the committee meeting. “Either option would run an additional $1,000 to $2,000 to purchase and would be done yearly, number in sequence and dated.”
One option would be similar to a handicapped parking permit that would hang from a resident’s rearview mirror and could be utilized by various members of the household.
The second option is similar to a punch card, but residents would be unable to duplicate them due to the use of thermochromic ink, which disappears when someone tries to photocopy it.
The committee recommended Race make the idea a resolution to bring before the committee for approval at this month’s meeting Oct. 24.
“This will still will be cheaper than most private providers,”said Ronald Knott, Stuyvesant town supervisor and chairman of the Public Works Committee. “I have a small business and we generate a lot of cardboard. I have to pay $150 a month just to have cardboard taken away.”
This shouldn’t cause those who already utilize the county’s services to stop recycling, Knott said.
“There is a lot of awareness about recycling,” he added. “Those who want to recycle will most likely continue to do so.”
Casella Recycling — the company that processes the county’s materials — forced Columbia County to limit the materials it accepts. The new protocol for accepting materials took effect Aug. 1 with a new contract with Casella.
The county switched to single-stream collection, using one bin for multiple recyclables, about five years ago. Single-stream collection can cause recycled materials to be less profitable because it is prone to contaminate the material.
To reduce the chance of contamination, Casella is not accepting items with plastic coating or wax-coated paper.
The monthly cost for having Casella process recyclables has skyrocketed from $6,000 to $14,000 in the last six months because of a lack of markets and increased processing costs.