NORTH OGDEN — North Ogden once again is debating the future of its recycling program, a standing issue in communities across Weber County and beyond due to dipping prices for recyclables and rising costs for cities.
The latest incarnation of the debate stems from another bump in the fees charged by the city’s recycling firm, Ogden-based Recycled Earth. Recycled Earth’s fee jumped from $36.80 a ton to $53.94 last March and spiked again last November to $84.14, reflecting market dynamics in the sector.
Now, North Ogden officials are debating whether to maintain the city’s recycling program and, if so, in what form ahead of budget deliberations for fiscal year 2021, which starts July 1. The North Ogden City Council broached the subject at the body’s meeting on Tuesday, and among the options are continuation of the program as is, which would require an extra appropriation of around $26,000 for 2021, up more than 50% from $45,900 for 2020. Yet another possibility would be elimination of the program altogether.
“We would like to stay here,” said David Rawson, who runs Recycled Earth and addressed the City Council. “We would like to be able to provide the service.”
A third stopgap possibility would be to keep the recycling program, but process cans, paper, plastic and other recyclables as garbage and landfill them until the market improves and Recycled Waste can reduce its per-ton processing fee. That would cost the city $39 per ton of waste collected, less than half the $84.14 rate.
“I don’t really like it as an option,” Rawson said. But it at least gives the company a means to stay afloat until the recycling market rebounds and Recycled Earth is able to lower its rates.
About half the other Weber County cities Recycled Earth works with have gone with the $39-per-ton option, according to Rawson, while the others have maintained the program as is, paying the higher fee. North Ogden pays its waste-hauler $40.49 per ton of garbage taken to the landfill, according to Evan Nelson, the city’s finance director.
North Ogden will keep paying the higher $84.14-per-ton recycling fee through the fiscal year, which ends June 30, requiring an extra $15,000 or so to cover the cost increase, according to Jon Call, the North Ogden city attorney. What happens in fiscal year 2021, though, is still up for debate, and officials at Tuesday’s meeting didn’t offer a clear read of where their sentiments lie.
The recycling market has been hit hard by China’s decision to scale back its purchase of recyclables from the United States, creating a glut here and pushing the price that some materials fetch downward. It’s been a point of debate in North Ogden, Roy, South Ogden and Ogden as leaders decide whether to maintain their recycling initiatives, and in what form, as costs go up.
Rawson, though, foresees the recycling market improving, allowing for a reduction in the fees Recycled Earth charges, pointing, in part, to plans to open a paper mill in Utah. That would create a local market for recycled cardboard, which accounts for around 45% of the local stream of recyclables.
“We feel it will change significantly during the year. It might be mid-year,” Rawson said. Moreover, he senses broad support among the public at large for recycling, even if it costs a bit more.