HUDSON — The Columbia County Department of Solid Waste has generated an estimated $120,000 from late December through January from selling permits to use the county’s recycling service, a requirement that took effect at the start of the new year.
County Solid Waste Director Jolene Race reported to the county Public Works Committee at its monthly meeting Wednesday that she estimates revenue from requiring residents to buy permits to use the county’s historically free recycling service will be $120,000, encompassing sales from late December through January.
The county last October decided to charge residents for the recycling service, which was free since the program started in 1989. Residents were required to have permits to use the service starting Jan. 1.
For $50, residents can buy permits, which come with two stickers to place on the inside of car windshields, from county service stations or town clerks’ offices. Senior residents, from age 65, can buy the permits for $35. People living outside the county wishing to use the recycling services are required to pay $100 for a permit. Permits expire in a year.
The county has sold about 5,000 permits since the town clerks received them as early as Dec. 20 and as late as the first week in January, Race said.
“We are sending out an additional 2,500 permits to town clerks’ offices,” Race said. “And on Jan. 14 we ordered 10,000 more permits. We have received a positive response from people. A lot of the people who are buying permits are people who have commercial haulers. They want to pay a lower fee.”
The county’s decision to start charging for its service is a response to recent hardships in the recycling industry after China, which was one of the top buyers of recyclable materials in the world, refused to accept recyclables from foreign nations.
Over time, the price for recyclable materials has steadily decreased, making it harder for programs such as Columbia County’s to break even.
The Columbia County Solid Waste Department budgeted about $70,000 to handle recyclables in 2018, but by July, the county had spent that money, forcing the department to draw from other funds to continue operations. This year the county budgeted about $250,000 to cover the costs of recycling.
The county’s last bill from Casella Recycling, the company hired by the county to process its recyclable materials, was about $21,000, Race said. She expects this month’s bill to be similar, estimating the cost for the year will end up between $240,000 and $260,000.
“I know I was weary about doing this at first,” said Copake Town Supervisor Jeffrey Nayer, a member of the county Public Works Committee. “But most people are just happy to do it to keep the service going.”
The county took a risk putting the program together in about two months, said Stuyvesant Town Supervisor Ronald Knott, chairman of the Public Works Committee.
“It was a push to get this started by the start of the year,” Knott said. “But it was a great thing to do.”
The Public Works Committee passed a resolution Wednesday to renew the contract for 2019 between Columbia County and Greenport to haul the town’s solid waste, including recyclables. The county’s contract with Greenport is for a monthly rate of $7,041 plus the cost of the waste disposal at $101 a ton and recyclables at a rate of $100 a ton.