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Kylie Hansen on recycling

Kylie Hansen talks to the City Council about recycling on Monday, March 5. Hansen is a student at Twin Falls High School and member of the environmental club there. "Resources on this planet that we live on are finite," she said.

TWIN FALLS — How much is too much to recycle? The city is putting its cap at $100 per ton.

The City Council on Monday voted unanimously to continue with Twin Falls’ recycling program through PSI Environmental Services Inc. But the decision to recycle will come at a cost for residents, with city utility bills increasing by 42 cents per month. Not only that, but whenever the cost to recycle exceeds $100 per ton, those collections will be going to the landfill instead.

While all the residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting were in favor of recycling, the Council recognized that some people are on a fixed income. The breaking point of $100 per ton will keep the rate increase low while the city waits to see what the market will do.

“The economics of recycling are in dramatic change, and we need to buy ourselves some time,” Councilman Chris Talkington said.

The new rates will likely go into effect in April and will equate to an increase of $5.04 per year per customer.

Recycling has been around in Twin Falls since 2005. While it once brought in some revenue, recycling in more recent years has cost money. PSI Environmental Services paid close to $110,000 in 2017 for this service, and has asked the city to share in those costs.

Recycling has become more expensive in recent months, and particularly since China stopped importing from the U.S. due to high contamination. In February, it cost $136 per ton to recycle out of Twin Falls.

Under the Council’s decision, PSI will take recycling to a sorting center only when the costs are $100 per ton or less. The business will share 50 percent of those costs, and the rest will be paid through the increase in residents’ bills.

When recycling costs are more than $100 per ton, the material that’s collected will go to the regional landfill at a cost of $37.50 per ton.

The Council also talked about the need for more community education in an effort to reduce contamination — either from filthy containers or from people putting things in the recycling carts that can’t be recycled.

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Two students representing an environmental club at Twin Falls High School came and spoke to the Council.

“We have made it our mission to make recycling more convenient,” Club founder Cheyon Sheen said.

At first, the club got burritos, waffles and “wishful recycling” in its recycling collection bins at the school. But after some education efforts in classrooms, “now we hardly have that,” she said.

Sheen offered the club’s assistance with community education. A representative from the College of Southern Idaho’s Sustainability Council also offered that group’s support.

“I think it would be a shame if we would lose that ability to recycle,” Twin Falls resident Dennis Crawford said.

Other options presented at the Council meeting were to stop the recycling program altogether, saving residents about 40 cents per month after considering costs at the landfill. On the other end, the Council could have raised rates higher to cover the cost of recycling even above $100 per ton.

“Somewhere in the middle is the ability to respond as the market shifts,” Twin Falls Utilities Billing Supervisor Bill Baxter said.

PSI had recommended paying for no more than $80 per ton to recycle, but Mayor Shawn Barigar and other Council members recognized that recycling costs have been above that for the past five months.

“I would hate to go toward this middle ground, raise rates and dump everything,” Barigar said.

He asked for monthly reports moving forward so the city has more information to work with as it considers the utility rates for the next fiscal year.

Vice Mayor Nikki Boyd was absent from the meeting.

Also at the meeting, the Council:

  • Confirmed the appointment of Cindy Bond to fill the Urban Renewal Agency board seat vacated by Brad Wills; and to appoint Andy Hohwieler and Doug Vollmer to the board with terms beginning in July.
  • Voted to support Twin Falls School District’s plant facilities levy and encouraged residents to do the same. Early voting takes place this week, with election day on Tuesday.
  • Approved a resolution to declare the city’s intent to sell its Hansen Street building via auction, with a public hearing scheduled April 2.

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