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Residents may see recycling surcharge in bills

SNOHOMISH — In Snohomish and Monroe, recycling pickup in the city will cost more if rate adjustment requests from Republic Services are granted.
The hauler is requesting additional surcharges in part to cover the cost of doing business after China set quality-control crackdowns on what recycling processors can accept, as well as stricter pollution controls to regulate the country’s recycling firms.
Republic has asked for Snohomish to add a $2.86 per month surcharge for residential recycling service at households on top of the normal fee.
It’s a price which Republic calculated based on the tons of recyclables divided by the number of accounts, from city materials.
An alternative option Republic put forward is a 7.5 percent overall rate increase for garbage and recycling. Two other options are variants to the rate structure; the cheapest variant is a $1 per month surcharge for houses, and $1.50 per month for apartment complexes and similar abodes.
Commercial businesses would be charged different amounts.
It’s asking Monroe for a $2.78 per month surcharge.
At the requested rates, the surcharges on recycling could cost homeowners a little over $30 a year more. But these figures are not concrete.
Separately, Republic is seeking a $5.88 per year organics surcharge for yard waste in part because of new state regulations faced by processor Cedar Grove.
The Snohomish City Council is scheduled to decide what route to take on these surcharges at its Tuesday, Feb. 18 meeting. Monroe’s council will be asked to weigh in sometime this spring.
Monroe is “working on the fine print” on the contract, city finance director Becky Hasart said. In the negotiations with Republic, “there’s been some give and take.”
When a surcharge might become effective is one of the items being discussed, Hasart said.
Recycling is mandatory for residents in both cities.
Monroe is under contract with Republic through 2021, while Snohomish currently has a seven-year contract that lasts to 2024; Snohomish began using Republic Services in 2003.
Trash haulers are approaching cities statewide with surcharge requests.
Sultan recently had Republic Services visit to ask for a $2.67 per month surcharge.
Lake Stevens has already approved a $2.75 per month surcharge, according to Republic.
Arlington, Edmonds, Marysville and four other Snohomish County cities have adopted recycling surcharges of under $1.25 a month, according to Republic’s data. All but one of those cities contract with Waste Management.

Market factors
China’s crackdown came into effect in early 2018. It created stricter regulations on contamination in recyclables. Unwanted or unclean items in consumer recycle bins increase the risk of “contamination” in waste stream lingo. For example, dirty jars or un-rinsed milk jugs might cause a load to be contaminated. Putting the wrong recyclables in the wrong recycling waste stream would be contamination, too.
Aggravating the situation, recycling commodity prices dropped because of oversupply, shrinking the bottom line for exporters. Waste companies spend money to collect and sort recyclables, and earn money by selling the sorted material.
Republic says the valuation for sold recycled materials plummeted from being worth $63.56 per ton in 2017 to lately being $16.77 per ton in 2019.
The situation unspooled over 2018 and 2019 as cities were forced to adjust.
In its wake, a few cities suspended or canceled recycling service altogether. Others are reducing what materials they accept into the recycle bin. Philadelphia began burning a bunch of its recycling at a waste-to-energy steam plant.
For decades, China was the largest buyer of America’s recyclable materials.
After China set limits, other countries in Asia became overwhelmed with recyclables; some, such as Cambodia, sent recycled goods back to the U.S.
It may get harder still to send plastic: Countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam take plastics, but are resistant to being a dumping ground. Vietnam’s government, for one, may ban all plastic imports by 2025, a leading Vietnamese online newspaper reported.
Republic Services did not respond to requests for an interview by deadline.



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