As Cost of Recycling Rises, Consumers Pay

A decision by the Chinese government has rippled all the way to the curbside of nearly every Martha’s Vineyard home, where residents will see an immediate increase in the cost of trash pickup and recycling.

Effective Jan. 1, China is no longer accepting many kinds of recyclable materials from other countries. Until recently, about 30 per cent of U.S. recyclable materials were processed by Chinese companies, which turned the bottles, cans, plastic and waste paper into raw materials that helped fuel China’s industrial boom.

China now says the process of recycling caused too much pollution and that too much of the bulk recycling contained non-recyclable trash.

About three years ago, Island recyclables were worth money. Companies paid to take them, though the price did not cover the cost to haul the materials by truck to recycling facilities. Still, it was far less expensive than hauling and paying a facility to take trash.

Changes in the recycling marketplace were already changing the economic equation over the past few years, Vineyard solid waste managers said. But the decision by Chinese officials turned it upside down in a few short months.

“We’ve gone from getting paid $35 a ton for a product that was worth something, to now paying $75 a ton, which is more than the cost we pay to get rid of trash,” said Josh Forend, general manager of Bruno’s Waste Management, the Island’s largest private trash hauler. “This is a direct result of what’s happening overseas.”

Don Hatch, manager of the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse District, said the economic reversal hasn’t caught up with residents yet.

“A lot of people don’t realize they pay for this through their taxes; they think recycling is free and we receive money for selling it,” said Mr. Hatch.

The refuse district includes Edgartown, West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah.

Residents of Oak Bluffs have trash picked up by the town, but there is no curbside pickup for recycling. Oak Bluffs residents can drop off recycling at the town dropoff center at no cost save a small fee for a sticker.

Residents of Tisbury have the option of hiring a private contractor for curbside pickup of trash and recycling, or having the town of pick it up. Tisbury, however, no longer provides its own service — the town contracts with Bruno’s for curbside pickup.

Price hikes for trash and recycling will take effect over the next few weeks for many residents.

Effective Feb. 15, the cost of disposing of a bag of trash at dropoff centers in the four towns that are members of the refuse district will increase from $4 to $5. Fees for other trash, such as tires, brush, or appliances, will also increase. There will still be no fee for separated recyclables.

Mr. Hatch said the price hike is the first in more than a decade. “That price increase was scheduled for July 1, but because of this unexpected increase in the middle of our budget year, we’re doing a price increase as of Feb. 15,” he said.

But it will only absorb about half of the newly-increased cost of sending recycling off-Island. As a result, town assessments will also see an increase in the coming fiscal year.

To read the full story, visit https://vineyardgazette.com/news/2018/02/08/cost-recycling-rises-consumers-will-pay-more.