By Meg Olson
Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) staff will be visiting Point Roberts in coming weeks to see how the changes to the garbage system are working and whether or not prices need to be adjusted.
The visit is part of a new compliance filing due August 15 the WUTC required of Cando Recycling and Disposal when it approved a new rate structure for the company last November. The new rates reflected projected volumes resulting from a 2018 county ordinance that made a minimum service level of garbage collection mandatory with service fees collected from all properties with septic permits. The WUTC is requiring compliance filings in 2019 and 2020 to make sure the rates reflect the cost of providing the service and are fair to users of the system.
“I am expecting them at any time and we are ready for their visit,” said Cando owner David Gellatly. “They will reevaluate the rates and decide whether there needs to be an increase or a decrease. With recycling commodities in flux they will likely do a review on those rates every year.”
Gellatly said the company currently can only sell its metal recyclables, which earn $140 per ton but constitute only 6 percent of the recycling stream. The company pays to dispose of all other recycling commodities. “At the beginning of 2019, it cost $237 a ton to dispose of recycling materials.”
Gellatly said some users, especially Canadian residents, expect recycling disposal to be free because it is north of the border. “In Canada they pay a deposit and an environmental fee on bottles and cans and that’s what funds those programs,” Gellatly said. “We don’t have deposits and environmental fees on containers in Washington. Perhaps we need to look inwardly in Washington and do something like our neighbors to fund recycling programs like they do.” Gellatly takes the Point’s recycling to Canada for disposal but as a commercial hauler, he pays for its disposal if it cannot be sold.
Overall, Gellatly said mandatory collection has resulted in a significant increase of residential garbage being collected with a decrease in garbage going to the transfer station and a decrease in commercial garbage. In June 2018, the company collected 14 tons of garbage and 6.4 tons of recycling at the curb. In June 2019 they collected 28.7 tons of garbage and 15 tons of recycling.
“It’s good to see people taking advantage of what they’re paying for,” Gellatly said. With 26 cans to set out a year, he said they were seeing summer residents cleaning up their properties and setting out extra cans to compensate what they won’t use in the off-season. “I’m really encouraged by the recycling numbers and we’re seeing a decrease in commercial collection so I think people who were putting their trash in dumpsters are now taking it to the curb.”