ROY — Forces impacting the recycling market worldwide are putting the future of the city of Roy’s recycling program in doubt.
No decision is imminent, but Roy officials have been approached by the city’s trash hauler, Waste Management, about tweaking the recycling program in light of the higher cost of handling plastic, paper, aluminum and other such materials. The firm, which collects trash and recyclables for the city, is in a “tight spot” given changing market trends — a global issue — said Jason Poulsen, the Roy city manager.
The current rate structure will stay in place for at least the next four months, until November, but then city leaders and Waste Management reps plan to discuss if change is in order. Change could mean increasing the collection fees customers pay for trash and/or recyclables, a possibility Poulsen doesn’t like, or doing away with the recycling program altogether.
“We’re trying to just look at all options,” Poulsen said. Residential customers currently getting trash and recyclables picked up pay $10.94 a month for the service, and he said Waste Management, contracted by the city, is proposing a $1.23 monthly hike to $12.17.
If raising rates for Roy customers turns out to be the sole option, he said he’d favor getting rid of the program instead “until the recycling world figures out what they’re doing.” Then it would be up to Roy residents and businesses, if they so chose, to save recyclables and haul them to recyclers themselves.
Officials in North Ogden faced a similar dilemma due to the rising cost of recycling and reached consensus last May to raise trash collection fees for customers in the 2019 fiscal year budget to $12.33 a month per household. That’s up 49 cents from $11.84.
DECREASED DEMAND FROM CHINA
The future of recycling has been a point of debate across the county with the decision by China — singled out by Poulsen — to scale back the quantity of recyclables it takes from U.S. markets, in part because the materials are sometimes too dirty and sullied to be processed.
“Decreased demand from China along with stricter quality requirements have created higher global supply and put downward pressure on commodity prices,” Jennifer Rivera, Waste Management communications director, said in an email. “The average value of a ton of single-stream recyclables has fallen 50 percent since 2017 while processing costs have increased.”
Moves by China to reduce acceptable levels of contaminants in recyclable materials — trash, yard waste and food residue, for instance — raises expectations among other buyers of recyclables as well, Rivera said. That results in increased processing costs to extract contaminants and dispose of them or the need to throw away entire batches of sullied recyclables.
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“Recyclers across the country, including Waste Management, are talking to customers about contract terms to recalibrate recycling contracts based on this new market reality,” Rivera said.
North Ogden considered eliminating its recycling program in light of the new dynamics, but determined that would necessitate rate hikes as well because the city’s waste hauler, Republic Services, would have more trash to collect.
In light of the push for cleaner recyclables, officials in Ogden have put a focus on getting residents to keep garbage out of their recycling bins, an approach favored by Waste Management. If customers put trash or other “prohibited materials” in their recycling carts, they can lose recycling services, though their trash will still be hauled.
Ogden, which handles trash collection in the city, charges residential customers with standard-sized bins $20.22 a month to haul trash, but assesses no fee to handle recyclables, according to Vincent Ramos, public service operations manager for the city.
Poulsen is skeptical educational efforts in Roy to get residents to keep their stream of recyclables clean — by rinsing out empty cans or milk jugs, for instance — would yield results. “I just don’t know if the public is going to do that. I don’t know that they’re going to take the time. They’re just going to chuck it,” he said.