Durango residents will see a new recycling surcharge on their June utility bills.
Durango City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the $2.69 per-month increase to cover costs of processing recycling. The council did not discuss the change.
Costs are up because China, a major global destination for recyclables, stopped accepting shipments with high rates of contaminated recyclables last year, which flooded the global market with material.
Friedman Recycling in Albuquerque began charging the city an additional $25 per ton for single-stream recycling in March, saying China’s new policy requires the company to spend more on storing and marketing materials, City Operations Director Levi Lloyd said in an earlier interview.
If the city didn’t add the surcharge, it could face a $180,000 budget shortfall over the course of a year as a result of the new fee, according to city documents.
Councilors asked Lloyd to explore alternatives to raising rates for customers, such as storing the material. But he was unable to find a viable solution.
The city examined storing materials in the city of Durango and Farmington, but found it wasn’t feasible, he said. It also examined a partnership to transport materials with Waste Management, but doing so would have raised costs, not lowered them, he said.
Staff also contacted facilities in Denver and Salt Lake City about taking the city’s recyclables, but again, doing so would have driven up costs. Phoenix Recycling, a Durango-based recycler, did not have capacity for the city’s materials, Lloyd said.
“What we quickly discovered was that Friedman was offering the best deal for our recycling materials,” he said.
The surcharge is intended to be temporary until the markets stabilize and Friedman eliminates its processing fee, according to city documents.