Arcata City Council approves recycling rate increase

Declining in value, recyclables are costing more to process

Julie Neander, the deputy director of community services in Arcata gives a staff report to the Arcata City Council. (Philip Santos — The Times-Standard)
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The Arcata City Council unanimously approved an increase in the curbside recycling rate for residents at its meeting this evening.

The change in rates is a result of the decline in the profitability of recyclables, according to Linda Wise, general manager of Recology Humboldt County.

“We went from a time a year ago where you could market everything no matter what kind of condition it was in,” she said. “People have been accustomed to being able to be paid for this material, or seeing some sort of a positive revenue source from it … now, it’s not that way.”

The city used to receive $8 per ton of recyclable curbside material but will now have to pay $69.56 per ton. Wise said the shift in the market has been a long time coming, adding “it’s getting to be (where) less than 50 percent of the material can be marketed at a positive value.”

But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t recycle, she says. Instead, residents should focus on consciously implementing waste-reduction tactics such as utilizing reusable containers when shopping, purchasing compostable and reusable products instead of disposable ones and restraining the urge to over-buy. When material will inevitably end up in the recycling bin, Wise said, residents need to ensure that it is clean and not contaminated.

“We want to be put out of business,” she said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Humboldt Waste Management Authority’s Jill Duffy said that had the council voted the increase down, the result would have been that recyclables would end up in the trash. However, this option would’ve fallen short when measured by both ecological and fiscal metrics.

“You’re not getting the recycling,” she said. “And secondly … with the rate that we negotiated, it is still less expensive to have your recycling be processed than it is to put it into the landfill.”

Duffy said the authority worked hard to negotiate the increased rate down, thus preserving the economic incentive to recycle.

While the council members approved the increase unanimously, they scrutinized the methodology used to determine how the increased cost of recycling would be dispersed among residents, and encouraged Recology to offer more of an incentive for residents to reduce waste overall.

Several members of the public expressed a desire for an increase in public waste and recycling containers, as well as a look at the bigger picture of long-term waste reduction.

Councilman Michael Winkler voiced a member of the public’s concerns about the use of a single stream system, noting it could result in a large amount of recyclable material being deposited into landfills. Winkler said the need for long-term monitoring of the process as a way to interact with the concerns.

“For now I support this, but it’s something that I’m uncertain about long-term,” he said.

Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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