TWIN FALLS — Council members could decide Monday whether to raise utility rates to continue the city’s recycling program or stop recycling altogether.

Twin Falls City Council will hear public testimony and could choose between three options for the future of the city’s recycling program:

  • Continue the current program and increase utility bills 4.9% (from $18.44 per month to $19.34 per month)
  • Modify the program to only accept cardboard, tin and aluminum and increase utility bills 3.25% (from $18.44 per month to $19.04 per month)
  • End the recycling program and decrease utility bills 3.35% (from $18.44 per month to $17.82 per month)

When China stopped buying U.S. recyclables in 2017, the recycling program in Twin Falls could no longer recover its operating cost.

In March 2018, the city decided to keep the program running by raising utility rates, but it set a cap for how much it would pay to send recycling to a regional sorting center at $100 per ton of material.

The cost to send recycling to the sorting center soon exceeded that cap, and about 1,057 tons of recycled materials were instead sent to Milner Butte regional landfill in Cassia County in 2018.

Council members raised the cap in October to $175 per ton of recycled material. But costs have again exceeded the cap, and the city must decide whether to raise the cap and utility rates, or continue sending recycled materials to the landfill.

Council members need to have a serious discussion about what’s best for customers and the city, city spokesman Joshua Palmer said.

“If the cost of that service increases, that cost gets transferred to the customer,” Palmer said.

It costs about $260,000 to operate the recycling program annually. Most of that is paid for by the city, and about 30% is paid for by the city’s waste contractor, PSI Environmental Systems.

Some of that money pays for Magic Valley Recycling to take materials to an Ada County sorting center. Recyclables then ship throughout the country for processing. In April, the Times-News reported about 17,000 tons had been diverted from the landfill since 2010, saving about 50 days of life for the landfill.

The city began its recycling program in 2005, and expanded in 2010 to single-stream recycling, which does not require residents to sort their materials.

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