Garbage rates are going up in Astoria because of the growing cost of recycling.
The average ratepayer can expect to see an increase of just over $1.50 to their bill each month after the City Council on Monday approved a request by Recology Western Oregon to raise the rates beginning in January.
The request revises what the company had proposed at a rate review in May.
China, once a major purchaser of recycled material from the United States, passed new regulations on imports earlier this year, a major blow to U.S. garbage companies’ profits.
Across Oregon, some ratepayers saw substantial increases almost immediately. But not in Astoria.
In May, Carl Peters, general manager for Recology, had requested a slight increase for one-time use of a dumpster, but said there were no major rate increases because of China’s actions on the horizon.
The city had just also approved a bump in rates to take on curbside collection of glass and compost and the company, mindful of these changes, did not request a rate increase last year. Instead, Recology looked into other measures to save on costs.
Now, like other companies across the country, Recology has seen the costs of handling recyclable materials only continue to climb. These costs have pushed the company outside the limits of an operating ratio established in a franchise agreement with Astoria.
“We didn’t really know enough to forecast impacts of recycling,” Peters said Monday. “We didn’t want to do what everybody else did, which was jump out and panic right off the bat. We wanted to wait until we kind of understood how things were going to be and figured that out.”
The increase in garbage collection rates, he emphasized, is still a fraction of what some communities are now charging.
Astorians have had to deal with a number of fee increases over the last year, said City Councilor Tom Brownson, but he understood the need to keep up with costs and he believed the increase was necessary.
“I for one at least try to look at it as an incentive to create less garbage,” he said, adding, “It is the tax we pay for the packaging that we, in this country, use.”
The next rate review between Recology and the city will occur in 2020. In the meantime, Recology plans to renew education and outreach efforts to make sure people understand what they are able to recycle or compost.