No Curbside Recycling in Hermiston's Future

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Hermiston Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan, right, walks the city council through a presentation on the costs of adding curbside recycling to Hermiston's garbage service at Monday night's council meeting.

[quote style=”2″]City Says Service Too Costly and Would Yield Marginal Results[/quote]

Proponents of curbside recycling probably shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for Hermiston to adopt the service. The cost, said Hermiston Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan, is prohibitive and the service would likely only marginally increase the amount of waste recycled in the city.

The issue of curbside recycling has come up within the walls of Hermiston City Hall because of legislation being proposed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The department wants the state to raise its recycling goal from 50 percent to 55 and to achieve that, it is essentially asking each county to raise their individual goals. Umatilla County’s current goal is to recycle 20 percent of all solid waste within the county, but data shows the county actually recycled 31.7 percent of its solid waste in 2012.

Morgan said, however, that the county’s recycling rate has fluctuated between 29 percent and 38 percent since 2008, and the concern at city hall is that if the county raises its goal and fails to meet it, the state may hand down a punitive solution in the future – such as forcing the city to institute curbside recycling. Currently, however, there is no enforcement component to the state’s efforts to increase recycling – the goals are simply ‘aspirational,’ meaning the counties are encouraged to meet their recycling goal, but are not required to do so.

But, said Morgan, there once were penalties for failing to meet a county’s goal and there is no guarantee penalties won’t be re-introduced in the future. And curbside recycling is a penalty the city of Hermiston does not want to pay.

The reason? Morgan said Sanitary Disposal, which provides garbage service in the city of Hermiston, has indicated that adding curbside recycling service to the city would double the cost of service to residents while only increasing the amount of recycled material by 2 percent.

“Sanitary Disposal would have to run their trucks approximately twice as often to collect both garbage and recyclables, although there would be some efficiencies from having the existing infrastructure,” he said in a memo to the mayor and council. “Transporting recyclables to the various recycling markets, however, means that even after payment for the materials, it would cost Sanitary Disposal about $65 per ton in recycling, while it only costs $43 per town for regular garbage.

“The bottom line for Hermiston residents is that curbside recycling could cost every customer an additional $192 per year.”

As a result, the Hermiston City Council approved a resolution Monday night asking the Umatilla County Commissioners to recommend leaving the county’s goal at 20 percent. Hermiston’s will now go to the Umatilla County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, and the Umatilla County Commissioners for recommendation to DEQ.

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