Tacoma might eliminate curbside recycling, add fees to deal with tightening market

Tacoma residents soon might be charged for recycling services, even if the city does away with curbside recycling altogether.

According to a news release, city officials are considering four proposals:

Limited recycling: Would eliminate curbside recycling and offer two satellite drop-off centers for an additional average rate increase of $1.33 a month to cover landfill costs for items no longer recycled.

Partial recycling: Would eliminate curbside glass recycling but provide satellite glass boxes or recycle stations for a $2.40 monthly surcharge.

Maintain full curbside recycling: Comes with a $3 monthly surcharge.

Maintain full recycling plus: Comes with increased recycling education, provides satellite glass boxes or recycle stations with a $4 monthly surcharge.

The surcharges, according to the release, “are intended to be temporary and will be re-examined as the recycling market stabilizes.”

Commercial customers would not be affected.

The changes are sought after international markets for recycling were, as the City of Tacoma put it in the news release, “disrupted,” making it more expensive to process recycling.

In 2018, China banned importing most paper and plastic for recycling by imposing strict limits on contaminated items, what it considered dirty or of low value. By August, many cities nationwide were opting for residents to toss normally recycled items in trash.

Tacoma so far has found alternative markets but needs to change its recycling program. 

“Last year, China, which was the world’s largest importer of recycled material, greatly reduced its import disrupting the world’s recycling market,” said Lewis Griffith, Solid Waste Management division manager, in the release.

“We’ve been actively studying, analyzing and evaluating the impacts China’s actions would have on our local recycling programs. We had hoped that the markets would rebound faster, yet the impacts are resulting in a loss of recycling revenue and an increase in cost to the utility to get recyclables to market.”

The City Council is expected to make a decision later in March with a program roll out in June.

There’s still time to offer your opinion. A survey on the proposed changes runs through March 15.

More information about the options, dates, locations and times for community outreach meetings and survey itself are online at Participation in the survey also enters you into a drawing for a $50 Visa gift card.