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Those fall leaves will cost you

Leaf cleanup season in the Rogue Valley will cost a bit more for people who visit the Rogue Disposal and Recycling transfer station in White City with trucks and trailers full of leaves.

A $7 fee (per cubic yard) was implemented Sept. 1.

While Rogue Disposal sells landscape materials such as mulch and compost made from the leaves, proceeds don’t cover costs, said Laura Leebrick, Rogue Disposal community and governmental affairs manager.

Leebrick said Rogue Disposal charged $7 per cubic yard for leaf and yard debris drop-off prior to 2010 but did away with the fees during the recession when fewer materials were being dropped off and residents were struggling to make ends meet.

“Over last two years, we’ve seen volume of material we get go up by 40 percent — 30 percent of which was in this past year alone — and we are bursting at the seams,” she said.

“We have added labor and additional equipment. Processing yard debris is not an inexpensive thing to do.”

Because of changes in the recycling industry, the company greatly reduced the number of items it will accept. Additional changes to electronic waste processing leaves the company as the only remaining place to dispose of e-waste in the region.

“The hits just keep on coming. We’re all so busy trying to keep at least minimal programs running and keep people educated as to what’s going on,” Leebrick said. “Things are changing so quickly; it’s hard to stay on top of everything. In all our programs, even the yard-waste situation, so much of the success in those programs depend on the end market of those products.”

Leebrick said a grinder cost over $700,000, and a set of loaders cost over $270,000 apiece.

On Wednesday, Shady Cove resident Paul O’Donnell and a friend delivered leaves and branches from fall cleanup at a mobile home park. O’Donnell scoffed at the new fee but said he could understand rising costs.

“I didn’t know they had any cost. It seems like we bring it in for free, at our expense from our trailer and our gas and our trucks,” O’Donnell said. “They pick it up and turn it into mulch and sell it,” he added, noting a $28 fee for Wednesday’s drop-off.

“I guess it makes sense they would have a lot of expenses. I think it’d be good to know more about where their expenses are so people that come in here and use it can figure it out for themselves. We fill up a four-yard trailer three times a month from mid-September to the middle of December. It adds up.”

Andy Silani, owner at Crater Landscape, said the new fee would be costly for landscape businesses.

Silani said Rogue Disposal employees began warning regular visitors to the transfer station about a month prior to enacting the new fees, though the added expense was still tough to swallow.

“For us, just for leaves, it’s about a $12,000 extra expense, per year. Hilton (Landscape Supply in Central Point) is a little bit cheaper, but by the time you pay the labor to drive the extra distance it ends up being about the same as going over to Rogue,” he said.

“We usually go every day, but we’ve kind of cut it back to when we’re full and we have to go so we can at least save on gas. We understand that Rogue Disposal has to do what they have to do to make a profit, just like any company, but what it boils down to is we have to pass on the cost to the customer.”

Medford area resident David Chambers said he preferred the ease of Rogue Disposal’s transfer station to regional alternatives. Local alternatives include only Hilton’s Landscape Supply. Biomass One accepts wood waste, from construction debris, but not landscape debris.

Chambers emptied his pickup truck bed Wednesday for $7.

“I actually don’t have a problem with them charging. It was only $7 for all this, and it was quite a bit. They charge by the yard. I just figure it’s worth the $7 for me to just get rid of it than to wait for our neighborhood to come collect the bags,” Chambers said.

“I went to Biomass last year, and the guy was a little cranky because there were a lot of leaves in it, which I guess they don’t want. I had to take the time to get all the sticks out and then the leaves. After all that, it didn’t seem like paying $7 was all that bad.”

For residents, the alternative to paying for leaf and yard debris drop-off is to utilize green-lid yard waste bins provided to Rogue Disposal customers. The green-lid can costs $7.42 a month. A second “on call” bin, featuring a lighter green lid, can be requested. The “on call” bin costs $1.55 a month, plus $4.27 for each pickup.

Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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