SH Sanitation won’t increase garbage rates

Sean C. Morgan

A Waste Connections company official told the Sweet Home City Council last week that Sweet Home Sanitation will not increase trash rates this week, although the recycling crisis continues and will continue to be a big problem.

Under its franchise agreement with the city, Sweet Home Sanitation can increase its rates by up to the consumer price index, and on July 1, it increased rates 4.2 percent. It increased them again, by 8 percent in August, with the approval of the City Council to offset increasing costs in recycling.

“Unfortunately, things continue to be a struggle,” said Brian White, district manager for Waste Connections, which owns and operates Sweet Home Sanitation. “Not much has changed.”

Last year, China stopped accepting recycling from the United States because the materials are not clean enough. Seeking new markets to recycle materials, Sweet Home Sanitation went from selling recycling material to paying for it during the past two years.

That drove the second rate increase last summer.

India and Pakistan started accepting recycling, White said, but the situation with them is turning the same way it did with China.

The cost to recycle has reached $100 per ton, White said, while landfilling is costing about $80 per ton.

White said Sweet Home Sanitation has been reaching out more and communicating what kinds of recycling are acceptable, which at this point is plastic bottles, cardboard, newspaper and milk jugs. Containers need to be free of the food and liquid they contained.

Infrastructure can be built to handle U.S. recycling domestically, White said, but it will require multi-billion-dollar investments.

Some talk is under way about building a large processor in southern Washington, White said. That would help this area, but it’s “quite a bit down the road.”

Sweet Home Sanitation understands the frustrations the ratepayers have, he said. “We share that same frustration. There’s only so many places we can reach out to get rid of some of this material.”

Given the big rate increase last year, to solidify its partnership with the city and as a “thanks” to ratepayers, White said, Sweet Home Sanitation will not increase its rates for trash service.

“We feel as if last year was a difficult year,” White said.

The transfer station will have some small fee increases, he said.

City councilors offered ideas to help cut costs. Diane Gerson asked whether Sweet Home Sanitation had considered a monthly collection cycle.

The reality is the amount of waste doesn’t really change, White responded. Customers will still generate the same amount of waste material.

It could save money on labor, fuel and other operational expenses, suggested Councilor Dave Trask.

The company would save on operational costs, White said, but “we always shy away from taking services away from folks. Their expectation is it’s been twice a month forever.”

Gerson asked about including stickers on cans to let people know exactly what can be recycled. She explained it’s easy to forget, but when the list is “in your face,” people would likely comply.

White said the company focuses on outreach, noting that even a group of haulers the company questioned was unsure what could or could not be recycled, underscoring widespread confusion.

It’s a good idea, but what’s acceptable keeps changing, he said.

Present at the meeting were Cortney Nash, Susan Coleman, Lisa Gourley, Mayor Greg Mahler, Gerson, James Goble and Trask.