Recycling costs skyrocket in Washington County after contractor falls on hard times

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Solid Waste board is considering removing countywide recycling programs after recent developments with the company contracted to provide the service.

Ivins City Councilman Cheyne McDonald, who is on the WCSW board, said Washington County is paying more to recycle solid waste than it would be if recyclable materials were placed in the landfill “to the tune of almost twice as much.”

“Due to some follies, I would say, of the board, we headed down a road that kind of locked us where we were.”

WCSW District Manager Neil Schwendiman said Washington County has been able to keep costs constant for residents and absorb the increases.

The county is looking for a more effective means of recycling after the contractor, Rocky Mountain Recycling, declared a “force majeure” in order to void the contract it holds with the county. (see Ed. note)

A force majeure clause is included in a contract to relieve both parties of their contractual obligations should circumstances outside of their control occur that might make performing those obligations inadvisable, commercially impracticable or illegal. The company cites the increasingly poor economy for the reason behind its force majeure.

Schwendiman said the recycling markets have dropped since the beginning of the program as it has become harder to recycle materials. The biggest impact on the markets has been recent changes in China, he said.

“We are still trying to keep recycling afloat,” McDonald said, noting that there has been discussion during WCSW meetings to do away with recycling altogether.

The county has two recycling programs: the “Binnie” program, where residents can bring pre-separated materials to a communal bin, and the “BLUCAN” curbside program that was started in 2016, where residents can place recyclable materials in a blue can that is picked up from their homes.

McDonald said he fears if recycling is canceled, it will not be brought back to the community for quite a while.

“I do think it’s a responsible position of the board to continue it as much as possible.”

Rocky Mountain Recyclables has told the county it will continue its recycling services until July 20. Schwendiman said WCSW is currently looking into alternatives in order to continue to offer recycling programs for residents without increasing their fees.

When Washington County began contributing to the cost for residents to recycle, the county was paying less than half the cost they would have been if the recyclable material was placed in the landfill. McDonald said “it was a no brainer.”

Washington County Solid Waste has posted a survey to its site in order to gather feedback from the various communities in the county before moving forward.

Ivins is one of two “all in” cities, meaning even if residents are not participating in the recycling programs, they pay into it.

“Some things you do because they’re right, not because they’re cheap,” Ivins Mayor Chris Hart said.

Washington County Solid Waste became a district in 1978 and oversees the solid waste disposal of residential and commercial entities to ensure practices are environmentally friendly, economically efficient, safe and social responsible, according to its website.

Republic Services manages the landfill and purchased Dixie Waste – the company that delivers curbside recyclables to Rocky Mountain Recycling – in January, and there are still 20 months left on the contract. Republic Services is currently hoping to extend their contract with the county.

Ed. note: An earlier version of this article named Allied Waste as the contracted company behind the force majeure. The correct company is Rocky Mountain Recycling. Allied Waste is now Republic Services. Republic Services did not declare the force majeure.

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