Recycling, trash costs increase in new solid waste district budget

MIDDLEBURY — County residents are likely to see higher costs for handling their trash and recycling next year, as the cratered market for recycled materials has triggered price increases for some services in the 2019 Addison County Solid Waste Management District budget.
The biggest change in the $3.22 million budget, adopted by the district board on Nov. 15, is the higher per-ton rate the district’s Middlebury transfer station will charge haulers to drop off most recycling: $92, up from $50.
District Manager Teri Kuczynski said recycling companies in China earlier this year changed standards for accepting many recycled materials, or simply refused to accept them, thus creating what she called “a huge crisis” for a sector that had formerly relied on that nation’s market.
“It’s all due to China turning away our recycling. It was a huge export, especially mixed paper,” Kuczynski said, adding the solid waste district lost about $25,000 this year due to plummeting prices for recycled goods. “Now it’s a scramble to find other markets, and it will take time. It takes a year, year-and-a-half to develop domestic markets for recycling.”
The budget the Addison County Solid Waste Management District (ACSWMD) board approved also includes a price hike of $3 per ton to $126 for commercial haulers to drop off most trash at the district’s Route 7 transfer station. That is the first such increase in 13 years, according to  Kuczynski.
The bottom line for residents, Kuczynski said, will be those two new drop-off rates will add 24 cents a bag to haulers’ costs, 3 cents for the higher trash rates and 21 cents for higher recycling rates. Haulers bundle trash and recycling charges when they accept both at drop-off centers or pick-up curbside, in almost all cases charging for the trash and accepting the recycling that comes along with it. 
Haulers won’t automatically pass along the extra cost to their customers, but Kuczynski agreed it would not be a surprise. 
“It depends on the hauler, because some of them might decide to subsidize the rate and keep their rates the same and absorb the increase. Some might (raise customer prices) more than the (rate) increase. We don’t control how they price,” she said.
Overall, the ACSWMD budget rose by about $114,000, or 3.7 percent, to reach $3.22 million. As well as increased costs in recycling programs, higher health insurance prices and other benefits for district workers were the major drivers in pushing spending higher. 
Projected commercial tipping fees of about $2.6 million will remain by far the district’s largest revenue stream.
Residents and businesses will see other higher and new fees next year:
• The minimum drop-off cost for residential trash drop-off of up to 100 pounds will rise by $1 to $8. This does not include bagged trash, which is not accepted at the transfer station.
• Businesses that bring in their own recycling will be charged for the first time. Fees will be $5 for a cubic yard or less, or $92 per ton if weighed.
• Asbestos disposal will go from $200 to $250 per ton.
• Maple sap tubing will no longer be free to dispose of, but will cost $20 per load. 
• Business oil filter disposal will increase by $5 to $55 per 55-gallon drum.
• Re-use shed visitors will for the first time be charged a $1 for the privilege of viewing or donating items that could find new homes, and the large-item drop-off fee will increase from $3 to $4. “The re-use shed costs us money to manage,” Kuczynski said. “That helps us offset the cost of materials that aren’t taken that we have to pay to dispose of, and our staff time.”
• Fluorescent lamp disposal will increase by 10 cents per bulb to cover packing and shipping costs, Kuczynski said.
• Those who drop off books will be charged for the first time, $1 for homeowners and $5 for businesses. “They’re very heavy, and we pay to get rid of them,” Kuczynski said.
One charge will be dropped: The roughly two-dozen commercial haulers who do business at the transfer station will not be charged their customary $20 annual license fee in 2019. 
“It’s been a rough year for haulers, and we want to give them a break,” Kuczynski said.
The district still projects an unaudited year-end fund balance of about $291,000, smaller than previous years. Kuczynski said the board prefers wiggle room given the sold waste sector’s unpredictability, as just seen in the recycling situation, and does not rely on tax revenue. 
“That’s something the board has always done from day one, is to have some kind of contingency at the end, some kind of buffer. We don’t tax our towns,” Kuczynski said. “So it’s all speculative as to what the markets are going to do, and how much waste is going to be disposed of.”
One item not in the budget is the district’s potential purchase of a 34.91-acre parcel owned by Ferrisburgh just outside of Vergennes. If purchased, that land, which lies at the intersection of Routes 7 and 22A and comes with an asking price of $375,000, would be used as drop-off center for northwestern county towns. The district board voted on Nov. 15 to make an offer, which is expected to be presented this week. 
Kuczynski said the district has money on hand to make such a purchase, but no plans have been made or money set aside in the 2019 budget to develop the property if a deal is struck. 
“It’s not budgeted currently for 2019. We would need a full cost analysis after developing the property, and then we would have to decide how to pay for it,” she said. “The land is a separate issue from developing the site.”
On Nov. 15 the board also voted to accept as a district member for the first time the town of Salisbury, which still has its own landfill. Kuczynski said membership would be subject to approval by Salisbury residents, most likely on Town Meeting Day, and become official when the Salisbury landfill closed, something that could happen later next year if the vote was held in March. 

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