Of the Baker City Herald

Baker County residents might be able to save themselves money later by recycling more trash now.

An Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) official told the Baker City Council Tuesday that the Oregon Legislature has assigned Baker County a goal of recycling at least 25 percent of its garbage by 2005.

Elizabeth Druback, who works at DEQ's office in The Dalles, said the agency would not recommend curbside recycling if Baker County can meet the 25-percent target without that expensive option.

Curbside recycling could boost customers' monthly bills by up to $5, Councilor Charles Hofmann said.

Baker County recycled 18 percent of its refuse in 2000, the most recent year DEQ studied.

Hofmann asked Druback whether DEQ will require Baker Sanitary Service, the local garbage collector, to institute curbside recycling to meet the 25-percent target.

Druback's answer? Not necessarily.

Next year DEQ plans to review the company's recycling plan, Druback said.

Officials will decide whether or not that plan is likely to achieve the 25-percent goal without curbside recycling.

Thus, she said, the more residents recycle, the less likely Baker Sanitary will have to raise its fees to cover the extra costs of curbside pickup.

Druback said Baker Sanitary already has proposed ways to increase the county's recycling rate, such as collecting cardboard and mixed paper from local businesses.

The company also could earn a credit of 2 percent by andquot;aggressivelyandquot; promoting composting of yard and garden waste, Druback said.

Recycling more also could lengthen the life of Baker Sanitary's landfill, she said.

If DEQ officials decide the company's recycling plan will not achieve the 25-percent goal, they might andquot;recommendandquot; curbside recycling instead, Druback said.

That's the current situation in La Grande, she said.