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Hood River Garbage will resume its recycling program, with some modifications, pending approval by the City of Hood River.

Hood River Garbage received approval from Hood River County and the City of Cascade Locks to enact a 2.61 percent recycling surcharge — allowing Hood River Garbage to begin moving some material to recycle processors in Portland.

The City of Hood River also approved the surcharge, but a few technicalities have to be taken before that approval is official, said Jim Winterbottom, district manager of The Dalles Disposal/Hood River Garbage. The surcharge will be implemented as soon as the city’s approval has been finalized, likely at the next city council meeting, he said.

For comparison: Hood River Garbage is currently paying $45 per ton at the Wasco County Landfill, and, in April 2019, it cost $115 per ton to utilize a Portland material reuse facility (MRF; cost readjusted monthly), plus an additional $35 per ton for transportation, Winterbottom said.

The surcharge was initially intended to cover the full additional cost of sending comingled recycling to an MRF, but, because MRFs continue to raise their rates as they struggle to find markets for comingled recycling, the surcharge will only partially cover the cost.

“It’s really not going to come close to covering it,” Winterbottom said, “but it’s a stepping-off point.”

Recycling collection processes have been kept in place in order to discourage changes in behavior, Winterbottom said, but Hood River Garbage will no longer accept hard plastics, numbered 3 through 7 — and that change will require significant outreach and education.

The change comes at the request of the MRF in order to make its comingled recycling more marketable.

“1s and 2s are a material that people do want and plastics really can reuse 1s and 2s,” Winterbottom said, whereas 3-7s are only useful in large quantities separate from the comingle stream, so when they are comingled, they end up leftover and ultimately go to the landfill. “There’s just not a lot to do with it,” he said.

Hood River Garbage has been landfilling comingled recycling — which includes tin, paper and plastics — since October 2017, when China announced that it would stop importing post-consumer plastics and unsorted paper due in late 2017 due to high levels of contamination — making it significantly more expensive to recycle than to landfill recyclables.

“I understand this will require a great deal of education and outreach,” Winterbottom said in a written statement to Hood River County and the cities of Hood River and Cascade Locks. “We are currently working with ReCollect (a communication app developer) to build a smartphone app to help with this process; it can also be embedded on municipal websites to reach a broader number of residents.”

The app —WasteConnect — is available now at any app store, Winterbottom said. It allows users to make payments and view their garbage collection schedule; and includes a “Waste Wizard” search bar that tells users what to do with any particular item, such as a plastic milk jug (recycle the jug, toss the lid).

Visit www.hoodrivergarbage.com/ for more info.

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