Talent recycling won't go to the landfill

Commingled recyclables from Talent won’t be headed to the landfill, but residents will pay up to $3.50 per month more to Recology Ashland after City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to continue to send the materials to Rogue Material Recovery in White City.

City staff presented options to recycle or place the materials in a landfill. They also proposed adding a surcharge to cover higher costs associated with recycling.

Restrictions by China on recyclables have resulted in the accumulation of materials in the United States. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality has agreed to allow those materials be placed in landfills, but Talent, like Ashland, has decided to keep current arrangements.

“After 30 years of training people to recycle, why would you stop now and send it all to landfills?” asked Councilor John Harrison when contacted Thursday. “What a waste of schooling. I’m glad Talent stuck with that. You just don't want to tear it down. It doesn’t make much sense right now.”

Citizen sentiment toward recycling was a major factor in the council’s decision, said Harrison. He added that the U.S. should take care of its own garbage and recyclables.

“I was really proud of the council for making that decision,” said Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood.

Recology presented cost figures for its recycling in Talent for September, October and November. They included $2,900 for bailing of materials and $3,400 for transportation costs of collecting and hauling the material to White City.

A third cost was “commodity value,” the cost to have the materials accepted at a recycling facility, which was $2,500. Previously Recology had received as much as $50 per ton for the materials, but now it must pay to have them accepted.

The average monthly outlay for the three costs was $2,933, or a monthly charge of $2.04 for each of 1,515 customers in Talent. Cost of putting material in the landfill was estimated to be $1.05 per month per customer.

An amendment to the current franchise agreement has been proposed but is not needed to allow a surcharge. Council will consider a resolution for the surcharge at its Dec. 20 meeting. Rates could be established at that time and they would be applied to bills beginning Jan. 20.

Staff’s recommendation also included evaluation of the situation and expenses every three months. That could result in changes to the quarterly billing based on the costs. Staff proposed the $3.50 maximum.

In November, Ashland City Council voted to continue sending materials for recycling with a surcharge to residents estimated to be $2.50 to $3 per month. Recology also serves Ashland.

Recology is looking at options to recycle materials rather than put them in landfills. That includes working with other countries to take materials and perhaps sending local materials to the Northern California coast, said Ashland Recology General Manager Gary Blake.

A test load of materials was sent to Recology’s Eureka materials recovery facility in late November to determine whether the quality of the commingled recyclables met the standards of the facility, said Jamie Rosenthal, waste zero specialist with Recology Ashland.

“Less contaminated commingle gives us the best opportunities for continued recycling at the lowest market cost,” said Rosenthal. She said people should double check to make sure what they are putting in a cart can be recycled rather than practicing "wishful recycling" of items they hope will be acceptable.

Common contaminants that end up in curbside recycling carts include soft plastic film, Styrofoam, glass, clothing, wood, plastic single-use cups, plates and cutlery, and anything soiled with food, Rosenthal said.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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