What's recycling cost?

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board October 26, 2011 06:05 pm

For most Baker City residents, recycling is hardly the most onerous task on their agenda.

But it could be a lot easier.

As is typical, though, the convenience of leaving recyclables at the curbside along with your trash comes at a cost.

We don’t know how high the cost would be.

But we should.

To that end, we urge the City Council to ask Baker Sanitary Service for an updated estimated cost to offer curbside recycling to its customers.

This is an ideal time to do so, as councilors are close to renewing the franchise agreement that gives Baker Sanitary the exclusive right to handle trash collection in the city.

Several years have passed since Baker Sanitary officials told the city that adding curbside recycling would boost residential customers’ monthly bills by $3 to $4.

With a current projection, the City Council can solicit residents’ opinions about whether they’re willing to pay extra for a major improvement in their service.

Thanks in part to Baker Sanitary’s 24-hour recycling center at 12th and Campbell streets, Baker County residents already do a pretty fair job of reusing cardboard, plastic milk jugs and other material rather than heaving everything into the landfill.

In 2010, for instance, residents recycled 24 percent of the county’s total trash tally.

Still, in just two years out of the past nine (2009 and 2005) did the county meet the 25-percent recycling goal the Oregon Legislature has set.

Adding curbside recycling almost certainly would boost the county’s rate by a substantial margin.

Sure, tossing a bale of newspapers and a few bags of aluminum cans into the trunk and driving the load a mile or two to the recycling center is not especially taxing, in effort or time.

But putting the stuff in a bin that, like your trash can, moves weekly between your back porch and your curb is simpler still.

Besides the environmental benefits of reusing more and burying less in a landfill, curbside recycling could be a boon for Baker Sanitary because, with less trash going to the landfill, the site, which Baker Sanitary owns, won’t fill as soon.

It might be that most customers aren’t willing to foot the bill for curbside recycling.

But until they know what the service would cost, they can’t even compare the costs with the benefits.