KINDERHOOK — Entering the second week of county-mandated permits to use recycling services, residents are buying them up, saying they will do what they have to do to keep the environment clean.
Columbia County started charging to use the county’s historically free recycling service Jan. 1. County residents can buy a permit for the year for $50 while senior residents, 65 and older, will be charged $35. The fee buys residents two permit stickers that are placed on the inside of their car windshield.
“The price was reasonable,” said Barbara Wahlers, of Stuyvesant Falls, who bought a permit Monday at the Kinderhook Solid Waste station, 2468 Route 9H. “It is what it is. If you are going to recycle, you are going to pay for it.”
Residents can buy permits at their local town clerk’s office or county solid waste service station, except the New Lebanon service station.
“I do not have an issue with buying a permit,” said Anne Schomaker, of Kinderhook. “If it helps to keep the environment clean and helps the county, I will do what I have to keep this service going.”
The county started offering a free recycling service in 1989. People could drop off recyclables for the county to sort, but in the past year the costs for processing recyclable materials has soared and the price for those materials has plummeted after China, one of the world’s top purchasers of recycled materials, stopped accepting them.
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. Columbia County Solid Waste Department Director Jolene Race projected that costs for recycling will reach $250,000 next year.
“I know the value for these materials is not as much as it was before and people do not sort their materials like they are supposed to, so it is tough,” said Bart Schoenfeld, of Valatie. “As long as the money is being used to make a greener environment, I have no problem paying it.”
The county passed a resolution to set a fee for recycling in October and permits were delivered to all town clerks.
New Lebanon started selling permits in the middle of December and before the end of the year the town had sold 57 permits, Town Clerk Tistrya Houghtling said. In 2019 New Lebanon has sold 89 more permits.
Houghtling opened her office for weekend hours to meet the demand.
“I was open Saturday and we were very busy selling permits,” Houghtling said. “We are residents’ only option for buying permits.”
Houghtling’s office will be open again today from 9 a.m. to noon.
Ancram Town Clerk Monica Cleveland reported to the town board at its meeting Jan. 3 that the town received permits to sell that week and sold seven. Copake Town Clerk Lawrence Proper sold about 80 permits.
“We’ve sold quite a few permits,” Canaan Town Clerk Charlotte Cowan said. “We will probably see an influx in the summer with the summer weekend residents.” Canaan has sold 36 permits, 25 to seniors.
Race could not say how much the county has made on the permits to date, but said she plans to announce the amount at the county Department of Public Works Committee meeting Jan. 23.
“Our goal will always be to preserve the recycling program we established back in 1989,” Race said. “We are a service to the residents of Columbia County, therefore our objective is not to make money but to maintain a environmentally responsible program without raising taxes to offset our program.”