Up until three months ago, a Lexington-based company had been paying Moore County to haul away tons of recyclable materials.
Now, the company wants to charge the county $15 a ton — the same amount it had been paying for the materials — beginning July 1, said Chad Beane, solid waste and recycling division manager for the county.
“The recycling market has plummeted,” Beane said Tuesday morning. “Like any market, it will probably bounce back.”
But for next year, this has blown a $70,000 hole in the budget in terms of the estimated lost revenue next year, Beane said.
County Manager Wayne Vest said he will likely propose charging a $25-per-ton fee in the budget for the new fiscal year. He will present his proposed budget to the county commissioners in May. The board will have the final say on any new tipping fee.
Vest said the current contractor, North Davidson Garbage and Recycling, agreed to give the county a “grace period” until July 1 to start charging for taking the materials.
The new fee will also impact the budgets of several municipalities that have recycling programs and bring those materials to the landfill, where it is collected by North Davidson. The county pays a fee of $5.75 per ton to a company that operates the transfer station at the landfill for the recyclables, Beane said.
“There are not as many companies doing this now,” Beane said of ones still paying for recycling materials.
More than 4,500 tons of recyclable materials were hauled away in the previous fiscal year, Beane said. The materials come from the county’s seven collection sites, as well as several municipalities, including Pinehurst, Aberdeen, Pinebluff and Whispering Pines.
Beane said it is important for the county to continue its recycling program because of the amount of material it keeps out of the landfill. He said the county has gone from 45th in the state to 15th in recycling in the last five years.
“We’re very proud and excited about that,” he said. “Our residents have really embrace it. We want to continuing do that.”
Vest agreed, adding, “It is the right thing to do to keep it out of the landfill.”
Beane said China, which had been one of the major customers in the market for the recyclable materials, is not buying as much now. He added that lower fuel prices are also impacting the market.
Plastics are petroleum-based, so “it is cheaper to make it,” he said.
He said some companies are also limited to the types of recyclables they will accept.
Beane said the county plans to continue contracting with North Davidson.
“We want a company that does it right,” he said.
The county put out the word in February with the municipalities that it was contemplating a new tipping fee in the next fiscal year so that could plan for it in their budgets.
Should the county commissioners approve the new $25 fee, it would amount to an additional $55,000 a year for the village of Pinehurst, according to Financial Services Director John Frye. The village, which provides curbside recycling, is estimating that it will collect 2,200 tons of recyclables next year. he said.
Aberdeen Town Manager Bill Zell said he is finalizing several different budget options for the town board to consider. Like Pinehurst, Aberdeen also provides curbside recycling collection. Both provide same-day collection of household trash and recycling materials.
“I understand their situation,” Zell said of the county needing to charge a fee to cover its costs. “It is just getting more and more expensive. At some point, it could make it (recycling) cost prohibitive.”
He said recycling is a three-legged stool — the homeowner has to separate out those materials, someone has to pick it up, or provide a place for them to bring it, and then someone has to be willing to take it.
“That is what wanes all the time,” he said of companies that will pay to haul the materials away. “You want to keep it out of the landfill.”
Zell said the town will have to study the impact of the new fee and look into whether to increase its garbage collection fee. He added that the proposed $25 tipping fee for recyclables is still less than the $45.18 per ton fee for normal household trash.
Beane said he understands the concerns by towns about the financial impact a new fee on their budgets next year. He said he hopes they will continue to operate recycling programs.
“The No. 1 reason is it is the right thing to do,” he said. “It keeps trash out of the landfill. It is still cheaper than the regular tipping fee.”
Beane said up until three years ago, many of the towns were contracting with different companies to take their recycling. He said having it brought to the landfill on N.C. 5 between Aberdeen and Pinehurst was a way to “streamline it and make it easier for everyone.”
He is optimistic that things will eventually improve, which could result in reducing or eliminating the fee at some point.
“The market will bounce back,” he said. “We’ve just got to get over a few bumps in the road. It is important that we continue to recycle.”