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Bradford, Vt., to Charge Residents a Fee for Recycling



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Bradford, Vt. — Residents will have to pay a fee to recycle bottles, cans, paper and other material at the town’s transfer station starting on Oct. 1, under a new policy approved by the Selectboard.

Casella Waste Systems, which has operated the town-owned parcel since 2016, will begin charging $1.50 for the first 30-gallon bag of “zero-sort” recyclables and 75 cents for each additional 30 gallons.

To help ease the sting on transfer station users, the cost of dropping off household trash also is being reduced by $1 per bag, according to Jon Skates, general manager of Casella’s Montpelier division. For example, disposing of a 15-gallon bag at the Fairground Road facility is being reduced to $3.50 from $4.50.

The new fee comes as the worldwide market for recyclables continues to decline. China, a major market, recently enacted a “National Sword” policy, which imposed restrictions on what materials the country would accept. More than 24 types of solid waste materials have been banned, according to Casella, including mixed paper (junk mail and scrap paper) and low-quality plastics. Additionally, finished recyclables shipped to China must have a “contamination rate” — the percentage of materials not labeled for a particular shipment, such as shards of plastic in a bundle of aluminum — of 0.3 percent, much lower than the industry standard of 3 percent that China previously followed.

That makes it costlier for companies to process recyclables to meet the new standards in China.

“Most companies, including Casella, have zero-sort recycling so that the material can be mechanically separated,” said Bradford Selectboard Chairman Ted Unkles, whose board approved the fee changes at a recent meeting. “The finish work is done manually. It’s not easy, but it was manageable to get (contamination levels) to stay below 3 percent. They’re finding they just can’t feasibly get it down to one half of 1 percent.”

Bradford’s is the latest on an increasingly lengthy list of Vermont transfer stations imposing such fees for recycling, according to Skates. Facilities in Montpelier and St. Johnsbury implemented similar fee structures earlier this summer, after Vermont legislation in May amended the Universal Recycling Law of 2012, or Act 148, to allow solid waste facilities to charge for the collection of recyclables.

“The value of paper and other recyclables has tanked, and in turn the cost of recycling has gone up,” said Skates, who requested approval for the changes in a presentation to the Bradford Selectboard last month. “Bradford is far from alone in this. It’s a national issue. Anywhere that operates on a budget that relies on (user fees) to sustain the operation is having to make these kinds of adjustments.”

Recyclables from Bradford’s transfer station are hauled to the Chittenden Solid Waste District Material Recovery Facility in Williston, Vt., one of just two such processing centers in the state. That facility’s “tipping” fee for receiving materials has increased to $55 per ton, Skates said, up from $21 per ton last April.

Previously, transfer stations were not allowed to list fees for recyclable materials, though the cost of processing them were often reflected in the cost of garbage disposal at the same facilities.

“Recycling was never truly free, it just wasn’t (listed) that way in the cost structure,” Unkles said. “There wasn’t a separate fee for recycling in the past.”

Unkles called Casella’s new pricing model “fair” and said he hasn’t yet heard any pushback from Bradford residents. Selectboard members are working to inform the public prior to when the hikes are implemented in four weeks.

“One of the things (Skates) mentioned was that when rate changes go into effect, the biggest problems come when it isn’t publicized well enough, and people are caught off guard,” Unkles said. “We’re making a big push to let people know before Oct. 1.”

Bradford’s transfer station is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Rates for Casella’s curbside waste pickup services, which bundles trash and recycling into pricing, will not change, Skates said.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.