People need to continue filling curbside bins while global leaders restructure recycling programs, said Jim Winterbottom, district manager of Waste Connections, Inc., which operates The Dalles Disposal and Hood River Garbage.
Contrary to reports that all recyclables are now being treated as trash, he said the following items are still accepted at the disposal company, 1317 W. First Street: cardboard, glass, scrap metal, concrete, tires, yard debris, appliances, motor oil and electronic waste, such as televisions and computers.
“We are recycling tons of material every day, we are running up and down the Gorge,” he told The Dalles City Council on Monday.
However, the only item currently being recycled out of the co-mingled blue bins at the curb is glass, said Winterbottom.
He said people should continue to put all recyclables in the bins because the situation is likely to change in the coming months.
“We don’t want people to get out of the practice of recycling because we are hopeful it will turn around,” he said.
He is in regular communication with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and processors in Vancouver and Portland about the next steps to take in the impasse with China.
At issue is China’s refusal to take recyclables that are contaminated with food waste or not permitted, such as garden hoses and plastic lawn chairs.
China is now requiring that the level of contaminants in imported recyclables be in the 1.5 percent range. Those materials from the West Coast have typically had contaminants at a 15 to 20 percent level.
“You can imagine what it’s like to open the doors when a carton full of materials contaminated with food waste has been sitting at sea for several months,” said Winterbottom.
Due to the high level of contaminates, China, the world’s largest purchaser of recyclables, has launched what it calls “Operation Green Fence” to halt importation of bales of materials.
The ban is scheduled to go into full effect Jan. 1 and Winterbottom said government leaders around the world are seeking a resolution.
Meanwhile, the financial bottom has dropped out of the recycling market and it is difficult for processors to move things out.
Winterbottom warns against people using recycle bins as overflow for garbage cans, which he said could result in additional fees down the road.
The bottom line, he said, is that people need to do a better job of rinsing out milk jugs, cans and other food containers before putting them in a recycling bin. He said takeout cartons have never been accepted but they are routinely left in bins.
Waste Connections is working to get a website up and running to keep people informed about what is happening in the recycling crisis. Winterbottom said the site will be advertised once it is operational.
In related news, garbage rates will be going up an average of 2.11 percent in The Dalles on Jan. 1 to help the disposal service offset rising operational costs.
On Monday, the city council approved the increase requested by Winterbottom.
The council regulates franchisees that collect solid waste and is required by an ordinance to review rate requests for increases to determine if they are reasonable and adequate to cover the costs of services.
The city receives a modest increase in the amount of the franchise fee that is calculated on the amount of gross revenue.
Winterbottom said the company needed the extra money to cover increased health care costs and those associated with environmental compliance and fleet maintenance, among others.
The Oregon Department of Transportation is scheduled to increase registration fees and weight-mile taxes, said Winterbottom.
He said the Wasco County Landfill will also be increasing both its gate rate and the pass-though Household Hazardous Waste tax by 2.11 percent in January.
“Do you see any scenario where we’re not going to see you in here every year asking for a rate increase?” asked Councilor Taner Elliott.
“We’re trying not to,” said Winterbottom. “We base the request on the Consumer Price Index, if it doesn’t go up, then I won’t be here. I would love to do that.”
He said the CPI was used as the benchmark for changes in operational costs. The most recent July to July comparison showed an increase of 2.5 percent.
Councilor Linda Miller recused herself from consideration of Winterbottom’s request because she works for the landfill.
The change in rates will increase the cost of a 20-gallon can emptied weekly from $11.63 to $11.89. The 32-gallon can cost will go from $16.80 to $17.12, and the 90-gallon rollcart from $24.69 to $25.25.
The 60-gallon yard debris cart will go up from $8.06 to $8.26 per month. A commercial dumpster that holds 1.5 yards of material will be $91.78 in place of $89.77.
Rates for other services have also gone up.