Oct. 25, 2018 - Hampton has many reasons for recycling: It is better for the environment, it extends the life of the landfill, it is mandated by the state, and it saves money. Or at least, it used to save money.
For years, China recycled much of the world's used products, especially plastics, but contamination and environmental hazards have changed that. For the past two years, Hampton residents have paid nothing for the disposal of their recyclables. (For the four years prior to that, the cost was less than $50,000 per year. Residents do pay for the collection of the materials.)
This year, the company that handles the recyclables, Tidewater Fibre Corp., declined to renew the contract at the existing price. The service was put out for a new bid. While the new bid is not yet finalized, estimates put the cost of handling recyclables for this year between $600,000 and $750,000.
The city's solid waste operation is not funded with general tax dollars, but with user fees paid by residents and commercial tipping fees. That fund has what is effectively a savings account to provide for such things as replacement trucks.
City Council voted on Wednesday to use that account – retained earnings – to cover the increased cost of recycling for the current year. However, the fund can't continue to absorb the increase. City Manager Mary Bunting warned that the city would need to explore with residents some ideas for potential changes in service and in the solid waste user fee for the next budget year.
There are a few things residents can do to help lower costs:
- Use less packaging. Carry a reusable water bottle. Consider buying items locally rather than having them shipped.
- Reduce contamination in recycling. Rinse plastic food containers. Don't put in greasy pizza boxes, styrofoam or plastic bags. Follow the guidelines at hampton.gov/recycling
Hampton isn't the only locality facing this issue. Norfolk is considering reducing the items it recycles, as is Flagstaff, Ariz., and La Crosse, Wis. Some localities are even suspending recycling. That would have long-term costs, when the current landfill reaches capacity.