The Board of Supervisors amended the county code Tuesday to enact a $7 per month fee for curbside recycling collection.
Previously funded by James City County’s general fund, market pressures brought on by a Chinese ban on American recyclable imports resulted in a sizable cost hike that the county was unwilling to shoulder alone.
The county’s opt-out curbside recycling collection program is intended to mitigate the costs of the increase.
The fiscal year 2020 budget, also approved by the board Tuesday, earmarks $1.8 million to provide curbside recycling for about 25,000 households in James City County. Just about $500,000 of that expenditure will be covered by county funds, making it roughly in line with what the county paid to provide curbside recycling without user fees in the FY2019 budget. The fee goes into effect Oct. 1.
Without discussion, the board voted unanimously to approve the fee.
“I know this was a huge undertaking. There were lots of questions and I’m sure there are still lots of questions to come,” Supervisor Ruth Larson said as she thanked staff for their work on the program.
With the fee ordinance approved, the general services department can now begin to promote the new fee and kick off administrative, billing and other tasks related to the fee prior to it taking effect, according to a county memo.
China’s ban on recyclables imported from the United States has put pressure on the American recyclables industry, as it has come to encompass more types of recyclable materials since China’s initial ban announcement in 2017.
China imported $5.6 billion worth of recyclables from the United States in 2017, which counted for about a third of American scrap exports. In the first half of 2018, the United States exported $2.2 billion in scrap to the Chinese, a 24 percent decrease from the same time period the previous year, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.
The vote to enact the fee caps off months of study and debate as the county wrestled with how to continue recycling services.
In January, the county inked its new five-year recycling collection contract with the Virginia Peninsulas Public Service Authority. The new contract comes with a new contractor who will actually collect the curbside recycling on VPPSA’s behalf. Tidwater Fibre Corp. will take up the task July 1. The current contractor, County Waste, will continue to collect recycling until June 30.
County Waste owns the carts county residents use to dispose of recycling. Though there were hopes County Waste and TFC would come to a sale agreement in which the former would sell carts to the latter, that plan appears to have fallen through.
County Waste is expected to pick up its carts near the end of June. TFC will deliver new carts, and there’s no anticipated disruption in service, general services director Grace Boone told supervisors in March. The county intends to run a public information campaign to keep residents in the loop regarding the changes to recycling.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_