Canby Disposal appeared before the City Council last week to seek a rate increase for the first time in more than five years, and it was a doozy. Garbage rates will go up 20 percent by the spring, an increase that has been divided into two separate “hits” to — hopefully — lessen the impact on customers during a time of economic strain for many.
The average single-family residential customer will see a $2.47 increase on the first of September, followed by another $2.48 bump on March 1, 2021. By then, the monthly cost of a 35-gallon cart with curbside pickup will have gone from its current rate of $24.61 to $29.56.
Andy Kahut and Steve Donovan of Canby Disposal Co. appeared before the Canby City Council during a virtual meeting last week to explain the increase.
Much of the blame rests with China, which announced in 2018 that it would no longer pay for recycling from the United States and other wealthy countries because of the high quantities of food and other contaminants in the waste stream, rendering much of the material unusable.
Because of reports of ocean pollution, trash haulers in Oregon have also agreed not to send their recycling to alternative countries, including Indonesia and the Philippines.
“Everything is staying in North America: Canada and the United States,” said Kahut, whose father, Fred, established Canby Disposal Co. in 1974 and pieced together the Kahut Waste Services family of companies. “And that, unfortunately, is very expensive.”
Donovan said the cost of hauling a ton of recyclable material has risen to $138, and many believe it will soon reach $150. By way of comparison, those same materials — or any other — could be landfilled at a Portland metro area transfer station for only $97 a ton.
Councilor Greg Parker thought that sharp disparity would surprise many residents, and said it’s important to remember “the value and virtue of recycling comes with a very distinct cost.”
“I think consumer education is important, and still, it came as a surprise to me that I’ve got two cans outside here, and what I put in one is going to cost $35 more a ton than what I put in the other one,” Parker told the Kahut representatives. “That actually, it would be cheaper for you at the end of the week, to take everything out of the recycling can and put it in the garbage can.”
Recycling has already been severely curtailed in many large cities, including New York City, Houston, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles. These cities still consume just as many potentially recyclable materials, of course — they just go straight to the dump.
The Portland metro area has been largely spared that route so far, thanks to the presence of regional mills and plants that can still accept — and are willing to pay for — mixed paper and other recyclables.
But the costs have gone up, and will likely continue to rise. Kahut said the cost spike from China’s decision was the largest he’s seen in 30 years in the garbage business.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said, adding that he is hopeful an increase of this size for customers will not be seen again.
Donovan became poignant at one point, describing the prosperous dream that recycling had once been. It was to be a huge moneymaker for garbage haulers, a “perpetual motion machine, where we would put water in the front end, and wine would come out the back end.”
The reality has been quite different.
“I’m going to tell you the truth here: For the last 20 years, we have been exporting our pollution to China, and the same ship the pollution came off of comes back to us loaded with VCRs and flat-screen TVs,” he said. “That was a virtuous cycle for America for a long time, but it’s not going to be like that anymore.”
Canby Disposal was before the council last week because the company has an exclusive franchise agreement with the city.
Canby Disposal, which has an exclusive franchise agreement with the city, had not requested a rate increase since 2014 — and that was only 2 percent. Company representatives pointed out that they saw a 5 percent loss last year, and that they would have been entitled to seek a rate increase, but chose to forego one.
The 20 percent increase was approved unanimously by the Canby City Council.
Photo courtesy Kahut Waste Services.
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