Eastsound WA—Due to continuing turmoil and skyrocketing prices in the recycling industry, and greater expenses over all, Orcas Recycling Services (ORS) determined that charges for both garbage and recycling needed to be increased October 2019.
On October 1st the charges for a can of garbage increased from $9 to $12; and from $300 to $400/ton over the scale. Recycling charges increased from $5 to $7 per can; and from $250 to $350/ton over the scale.
Beginning in January 2017, China essentially stopped importing recycled materials from the U.S. This has led to a massive glut of recyclables all around the country. The cost to dispose of the island’s “co-mingled” recycling has increased more than 3,000 percent since then.
“Since the second quarter of 2018 we have been losing money on recycling,” says Pete Moe, executive director of ORS. “Recycling is what we are all about—it’s a critical part of our mission. But we cannot continue to operate at a loss.”
Disposal costs for regular garbage have also increased, but not as significantly as for recycling. ORS has determined that garbage prices need to be raised in order to stay ahead of the curve.
“These increases are driven by two things,” explains Tim Blanchard, ORS board president. “With recycling we are simply catching up with huge increases in the costs. On the garbage side, we haven’t made any price increases in over five years. It was our plan to set rates that could have a five-year lifespan, and we worked very hard to make it work.”
In fact, only now will our rates be back to the $12/per-can price that the County was charging in 2013 when ORS took over operations.
“It’s worth reminding folks that we lowered prices when we took over the transfer station,” says Moe.
Because ORS operates the Transfer Station under a contract with San Juan County, rate increases must be approved by the County Council. That approval was received in Friday Harbor on September 10th.
ORS is exploring every potential approach for improving our efficiency and containing costs. The key to this, according to Blanchard, is separation and minimizing contamination: “When you can separate materials and then compact them for more efficient transport back to the mainland, you can really start making a difference.”
That is why ORS started raising funds for new equipment in the spring. “We need the machinery to “bale” recyclable materials like cardboard, aluminum and plastic on site; and we also are super excited about new technology that crushes glass into sand so that it doesn’t have to be transported off-island,” says Moe.
ORS processes over 140 tons of glass annually. If that could all be crushed to sand, local excavation companies have said they could use all of it for construction projects on-island.
“Managing components of our waste better locally helps reduce transportation costs, disposal costs and the environmental impact of all that handling,” says Blanchard. “That’s our zero-waste mission.”
ORS has provided more information and a complete revised price list on their website at wwww.exchangeorcas.org.