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County considers rate hikes on garbage hauling service of up to 9.2 percent for rural areas

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A dump truck drops waste into a bin at the Columbia County Waste Transfer station in St. Helens. County leaders are slated to vote on garbage rate increases that could take effect June 1. Garbage rates in rural areas of the county are likely to increase before summer hits.

In the wake of China's refusal of plastic and other recyclables from the United States, garbage haulers across the state have implemented rate increases to cover the costs of more expensive disposal.

Columbia County is no exception.

Staff from the county's solid waste department, along with representatives from the county's two main franchise garbage haulers — Waste Management and Hudson Garbage — met with county commissioners Wednesday, May 2, to talk rate increases that will likely affect residents in rural areas of St. Helens, Clatskanie, Rainier, Vernonia and Scappoose.

Companies are asking for increases in the rural areas they serve, ranging from 7.6 percent to 9.2 percent.

A 7.6 percent increase is recommended for Hudson Garbage customers in rural areas of St. Helens, Clatskanie and Rainier. Customers in rural areas of Scappoose are likely to see rates go up by 8.2 percent, while customers in Vernonia could see the highest hike — at 9.2 percent.

"This year we had unprecedented costs of recycling due to China cutting us off and not being able to send stuff there," Kathy Boutin-Pasterz, the county's solid waste program coordinator, said Wednesday.

"Our material is going to recycling, but it's costing more," she said.

Joe Wonderlick from Hudson Garbage Service said his company has found ways to accept the same recycling materials from residents.

"We have been successful in moving our materials through a combination of Asian destinations and about 35 to 40 percent of our materials have been cleaned up enough, so it's sold like newspaper," he told commissioners. "I think this whole situation is opening up some opportunities ... that are going to develop over the next few years."

"China stopped accepting recyclables with 'contamination' greater than .5 %," a staff report from the county's Land Development Services Department states. "Domestic processors have slowed down processing lines and added labor to clean the product, but none has yet achieved the new standard."

The report notes that new processing costs now outpace those for sending the products to a landfill.

A public hearing is slated for May 23. If the rate increases are approved, the new rates would take effect June 1.

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