Washington County launches new recycling program
The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday, April 26, to approve a new a new curbside recycling program for non-standard items, such as plastic film and bags, plastic clamshell containers, compact fluorescent light bulbs, sheets, towels and other textiles.
Commissioner Nafisa Fai was the lone vote against the proposal.
The service, dubbed Recycle+, will begin July 1. Residents can request service through their garbage and recycling collection company.
Participants will receive a 20-gallon purple bin and be charged $2.50 per month and $9.25 per pickup.
Dropping materials off at a recycling depot remains a free option.
The service is for residents of urban unincorporated parts of the county — land within the urban growth boundary but outside cities — such as Aloha and Cedar Mill. More than 200,000 Washington County residents live outside city limits, most of them in urbanized communities.
According to a news release, Washington County residents recycle more than 42 million pounds of material every year.
The new programs are expected to recycle an additional 1,883 tons of textiles, 752 tons in plastic and film bags and 51 tons of batteries, county commissioners heard in a presentation.
The new program faced opposition from public commenters who would rather use private company Ridwell, which offers a subscription-based recycling service.
The company sued Washington County in January after the county barred its services, citing county code that bars for-profit waste collection in unincorporated areas. The lawsuit, which cites 1,600 Ridwell customers in Washington County out of around 220,000 households, is ongoing in federal court.
Washington County solid waste and recycling manager Tom Egleston said Ridwell's model is based on a subscription commitment of three months to a year, and community input called for more of an on-demand model.
"They're different programs collecting similar materials, so they're easy to want to compare, but fundamentally, it's a different program," Egleston said. "This is more of a use-on-demand model and less of a service commitment model."
The current county system requires waste management providers to have a certificate that grants them exclusive territories for service. Currently, all the territories are occupied and no certificates are available.
"To allow another company to come in would require us to change our code to allow for that. It's possible. You can make those changes if you wish, but it's a major change," county counsel Tom Carr advised commissioners.
Egleston defended the franchise system as the cheapest and fairest way to provide services to all county residents.
"For our community members in Timber, they get a 32-gallon garbage can delivered to their household. And they pay $27 a month for that collection service. That service costs over $200 a month, but because it is an essential service in a franchise system, the service is provided to them at an average cost across the system," Egleston said. "If we take out part of that, the average cost goes up because only the less-lucrative accounts are left in the system. It's based on an averaging effect."
Before passing the new program, commissioners said they are willing to review the county's recycling model in the future.
"People in business choose who they deal with based off profitability. Well we can't have that. We have to provide sewer and water and garbage," Commissioner Roy Rogers said. "Ridwell's customers make up less than three-quarters of 1 percent of our households. This is a very very small number,. If I were king for the day, what I would do is pass this ordinance and then revisit this issue."
For more information about garbage and recycling in Washington County, visit WashingtonCountyRecycles.com.
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