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COOS BAY — Coos County Commissioners approved an increase in county garbage collection rates at Tuesday’s Board of Commission meeting, largely in response to more stringent regulations from Chinese markets that buy our recycled material.

As of Jan. 1, 2018, the waste collection companies will be charging an extra eight cents a month for the average 35-gallon residential can. Commercial collection will also be going up 5 percent as of Jan. 1.

Residential recycling service will rise 72 cents in price in July to address cost of living for workers in the sanitation companies.

The need for an increase stems from the need to better sort recycling. The contamination percentage of our county’s recyclables is around 25 percent. The Chinese markets where we sell are demanding loads of recycling we send not be over .03 percent contamination as of 2018.

Many plastics that were once recyclable are no longer and many things that people think are recyclable are actually not. Paper milk cartons, medical waste, diapers, and textile waste are often found by local sanitation companies in recycle bins. The only salable plastics at this point are No. 1, and No. 2 plastics.

“We’ve spent quite a bit of money trying to educate the community about what they can throw in recycling. We sent out fliers. We try to clean up this material that’s been coming in, the packaging and plastics. It’s really been a struggle with the new standards that have been set by the Chinese market,” Bill Richardson of Waste Connections said.

The recycling industry faces a trying time, as market restrictions make it difficult for recyclers to make a profit on recyclable materials.  

“It gets to the point where the cost of recycling exceeds value of the material you’re recycling … We’re a small county with relatively few people, miles away from where recyclables are used. It’s really a challenge to figure out what to do with this. I think as responsible citizens we already pay to dispose of our garbage, we already pay to dispose of our sewage. I think we're going to have to accept that we may have to pay for disposing of what we have considered to be recyclables up to now,” Coos County commissioner John Sweet said.