12/08 unedited tahoe mt. news
By Kathryn Reed
Even though selling recyclables is a losing proposition for South Tahoe Refuse, the garbage company bumped up the start date of its recycling program to be able to snare all the goods discarded after the holidays.
Dec. 29 is the first day blue bags will be picked up. Portions of El Dorado and Douglas counties and South Lake Tahoe are part of the pilot program. All jurisdictions serviced by STR in those localities will be onboard around Earth Day in April.
The $177,489 cost of the blue bag program for 2009 is being picked up by the South Lake Tahoe Basin Waste Management Authority. The expense is likely to be passed onto customers for 2010 and beyond.
That expense is just for the bags, not added labor, the cost of storing goods and does not account for revenue possibly generated down the road.
STR used to be able to sell whatever recyclables it took off its Eloise Avenue conveyor belt.
“The economic downturn hit the recycling scrap market pretty severely,” Jeanne Lear of STR told the board in November. “The price of fiber was $150 million a ton in the summer. Our fiber is at zero (today).”
For now STR is storing paper products in hopes the price goes up. But Lear said forecasts are for a dismal 2009, which could linger into 2010.
Because the refuse company isn’t making money off selling recyclables like paper, glass and aluminum it is predicting a $700,000 shortfall for this fiscal year.
Ratepayers are already about to endure a recently passed garbage fee increase in both counties and the city. Future hikes are probable because of the recycling program and STR not being able to turn recyclables into cash.
The Waste Management board expects regular updates from STR about the recycling program. STR plans to report back on the number of bags it distributes as well as the pounds of material collected, plus any changes in the market.
It is expecting a 50 percent participation rate in the blue bag program because of the high number of second homeowners and vacation rentals.