Surcharges of $2 for residential and 4 percent for commercial service apply outside cities; increases prompted by China's more restrictive standards for mixed paper and plastics, bales of which are stacking up in Portland-area materials recovery facilities.

Washington County households and businesses outside cities will see increases in their garbage pickup rates this month.

County commissioners approved a rate increase of $2 per month — about 10 percent — on a residential bill, which now is $21.09 for a 20-gallon container in an urban area and $21.51 for the same in a rural area.

For a commercial customer, the increase is 4 percent on a cubic-yard container picked up once a week. The current rate for that service is $103.01 per month.

Rates are higher for greater amounts and more frequent pickups, although the increases are the same — $2 for residential, 4 percent for commercial.

The higher rates took effect April 1.

They apply to the more than 200,000 people in urban unincorporated areas, plus those in rural areas. "Urban" is defined by the urban growth boundary set by the Metro Council.

Rates within city limits hinge on action by city councils.

Normally rates are reviewed during the second quarter and recommended changes are referred to county commissioners in time for action before July 1.

But Theresa Koppang, the county's solid waste and recycling manager, said private garbage and recycling haulers regulated by the count face higher costs.

Those costs are prompted by China's more stringent standards for mixed paper and plastics, which upended the economics of curbside recyclables.

Bales that do not meet the new standards are sent back to the United States, and they increase the cost to five Portland-area materials recycling facilities, which receive most of the material collected by the haulers from Oregon curbsides. The bales have to be stored until buyers are found – and it cost the facilities more to handle the material than to dispose of them in landfills.

Despite the situation with the material, Koppang said she is recommending no change – for now -- in what residential and commercial customers put out for curbside recycling.

The situation affects haulers throughout the metro area.

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