Cost of recycling doubles for city

A change in China’s policy on recyclable materials is costing the City of Oak Harbor more money.

So far, however, ratepayers won’t be affected by the increase.

Island Disposal recently notified the city that it was more than doubling the fee it charges for accepting recyclable material, from $45 a ton to $94.35 a ton. The South Whidbey company contracts with the city to handle recyclable material.

The change went into effect Oct. 1.

During a city council workshop last week, Public Works Director Cathy Rosen explained that China has stopped importing two dozen types of recyclable materials and also put tough restrictions on the level of contamination allowed in materials.

China had been accepting massive amounts of recycling materials from foreign nations for the last couple of decades. About 45 percent of the world’s plastics ended up in China, according to NPR.

“This change has created, I think, pretty extreme volatility in the global recycling market,” Rosen said.

In August, Island County Solid Waste announced that it would only be accepting No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, also because of the China effect.

Rosen said a state law requires curbside recycling in urban areas. The city collected 1,279 tons of recyclables last year. So far this year, the city has collected 1,300 tons.

It still makes financial sense to recycle as compared to dumping in the landfill. The county charges the city $109 a ton for solid waste, Rosen explained.

Rosen said a consultant earlier recommended a 2 percent increase in all city utilities except wastewater, which is increasing at a higher rate, but no rate hike directly related to recycling is planned. The rate residents pay for solid waste disposal hasn’t increased in 10 years, she said.