Recycling is generally a very good thing. It reduces the waste in landfills.
Why then does it feel like those living in Walla Walla are being punished for recycling? A hefty rate hike in curbside pickup is being considered because Walla Wallans are recycling more than anticipated.
Now, we understand the city isn't really trying to punish anyone. The fact is state law mandates the city put a comprehensive recycling program in place. The goal has been to make the program successful.
Last February the city signed a contract with Basin Disposal Inc. to take over door-to-door collections of recyclables. The cost was set at $3.64 a month per household, which was supposed to cover the cost of the service. Every household is required to pay regardless of whether it chooses to recycle. This makes the service affordable for all.
Another change was to replace the little green 16-gallon bin with a full-size 96-gallon container to hold the recyclables. This was done to cut costs as the collection could be automated.
Well, guess what? The extra room is being used. The amount of stuff to be recycled is 114 percent greater than had been anticipated.
BDI reports it is hauling 256,000 pounds of recycled material to Walla Walla Recycling every month as opposed to the 119,000 pounds the original bid request had projected. As a result, BDI wants the city to raise the rate by 32 percent to $4.81 a month.
How could city officials who made those original estimates not have seen a huge increase in recycling coming when the containers being used are six times larger?
BDI isn't to blame here as it is a business that bid on a contract with the idea it would -- as it should -- make a profit. The company made its bid based on 119,000 pounds a month.
So now it falls on the city to fix this mess.
Raising rates (or adding fees) should be the last option.
Presumably, the city is making more money from selling the recycled material to a Portland-based company. Figures have not been released. Nevertheless, there should be some extra money to help cover BDI's expenses.
It has been suggested collection go from once a week to every other week. That's not unreasonable as this would still give customers 48 gallons of space a week, that's three times more than the old 16-gallon collection bin.
If the city reduces the collection schedule it shouldn't raise the rates a penny. Any extra cost to BDI -- estimated at 21 cents a month -- should be made up another way, preferably through selling the recycled material.
City officials need to keep in mind that creating obstacles to recycling will result in more waste in the landfil. Finding ways to deal with recycling is far cheaper than finding and opening a new landfill.
But the bottom line is city utility bills have been climbing steadily and will continue to do so to cover the cost of sewer and street replacement. Another increase for recycling can't be justified and isn't acceptable.