Rural trash collection rates to rise 8%

Linn County Commissioners on July 10 approved an 8 percent rate increase for waste haulers who serve rural customers in Lebanon and Sweet Home.

The board had discussed the matter at length the previous week, July 3, but decided to table the matter  after Commissioners John Lindsey and Will Tucker said they wanted more time to think about it.

The increase will be effective retroactively to July 1.

Rick Partipilo, administrator for the county Solid Waste Advisory Committee and county Health Department staffer, told commissioners in the July 3 meeting that SWAC met May 31 to discuss the increased costs local haulers are experiencing in handling commingled recycling materials.

Partipilo said the committee recommended 10 percent and he personally suggested 8 percent.

Board Chairman Roger Nyquist acknowledged that there’s been “considerable angst” over the issue of increasing fees to cover recycling.

Local haulers have asked for rate increases from both cities and the county after China stopped accepting the level of contamination contained in recycling from the Northwest that’s been shipped there. That has forced haulers, who last year were being paid for recycling, to now find alternatives that are costing them money – storage by recycling processors or depositing it in landfills.

Partipilo said in a report to the commissioners that SWAC members reviewed financial statements from Waste Connections, which operates Sweet Home Sanitation, Republic Services and Pacific Sanitation, all of which serve rural areas of the county and had Merina and Company, a Portland-area accounting firm, review the companies’ requests.

The committee also reviewed profitability data from three of the largest waste haulers in the nation and met individually with all three local companies to review how they’ve handled the recycling ban, he said.

Partipilo said in his report that SWAC members were told by the haulers that an 8 percent increase “does not provide much resiliency in the event of an economic disruption, such as the China recycled materials import ban.”  He said the haulers have lost money in the first six months of this year due to the ban.

Julie Jackson, municipal and community relations manager for Republic Services, told the board that “we haven’t recovered” from the recycling crisis.

She said the West Coast has been hit “much harder” than other regions of the country because recycling from the West Coast has traditionally been sent to China.

She estimated her company’s losses thus far this year as between $70,000 and $90,000.