Craig’s recycling program in the trash after costs soar

A city truck dumps garbage at the Moffat County landfill.
File photo

The city of Craig is studying the feasibility of continuing its recycling program after market trends and increased costs forced city council to scrap the program.

In an interview Monday, Dec. 16, Councilman Paul James the city has been paying almost $6,000 per month to recycle material that oftentimes ends up in the landfill anyway.

“They’ve been rejecting it,” James said of Craig’s recyclables. “A big part of it is a lot of the countries that used to take our recyclables are no longer doing that. So, it ends up getting backed up and they send it back to us. Then it just gets put back in the landfill anyway and it’s costing us almost $70,000 a year. At least for the time being, that’s kind of the way we are basically going to take the expensive aspect out, take it directly to the landfill to save money. That’s not to say we aren’t looking at other options, not doing away with the idea completely. We are just trying to find a workable solution before we move forward.”

City Manager Peter Brixius said they city will continue some of its recycling programs.

“The City intends to keep recycling waste oil and electronics as we have been,” Brixius said in an email Monday, Dec. 16. “Unfortunately the cost of recycling  fiber and plastics continues to rise for the city due to the dramatic drop in the value of commodity prices.  Recyclers are now passing this decline in value to the generator.  The City of Craig will be gathering more information from citizens early next year and working to pull a proforma together to see if recycling can continue using a different approach.” 

Brixius upped estimates on the cost of the city’s recycling program Monday, saying they were often dependent on whether such materials were contaminated.

“The current cost of recycling with labor, mileage, overhead and tipping fees, could be approaching $80,000 annually which partially depends on how many loads are rejected vs. up-charged due to contamination,” Brixius said.

In an interview Monday, Dec. 16 with Randy Call, the city’s road and bridge director who assists the city in managing the recycling program true rise in cost for Craig’s recycling program.

“Now they want to charge us like $60-some per ton to take it and then if it’s contaminated – which most of ours is – it’s up to something $127 per ton,” Call said. “It only costs us some $45 to haul it to the landfill. It’s kind of a no-brainer at this point in time unless somebody wants to step up and pay for it.”

Market forces are behind the increase in costs to taxpayers.

“It was free before, but these markets have just tanked,” Call said. “Nobody wants recyclables, so that’s why they’re charging. That is the big thing right now, from what everybody tells me. China doesn’t want our trash.”

Call said he and Brixius are likely to slip a survey into Craig residents’ utility bills to study the interest of increasing rates to pay for a recycling program.

“If the people want to pay for it, we’d have to adjust the rates,” Call said. “But it’d take a lot higher number than what we’ve got in participation here in Craig. They’re actually, at some point, going to do a survey and see how much interest we can get for recycling here in Craig. How many people would actually pay for it?”

Brixius hinted the city will be listening to constituents on the future of Craig’s recycling program.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and are working to find a resolution to the high cost of recycling,” Brixius said. “More information will be forthcoming based on our analysis and interest from the community.”

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