Recycling and collecting yard waste is poised to cost more starting this month and drive overall garbage rates higher in Spokane Valley and parts of Spokane County.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission last Thursday allowed rates charged by Waste Management of Spokane to increase by an average of about 4 percent.
Commission staff worked with the company to modify its rate hike request, bringing it down from a 12 percent increase.
Waste Management officials said they are reducing collection rates for regular trash due to a reduction in the cost of dumping at the city-county waste incinerator.
But the company’s spending for expanded recycling, as well as more expensive collection of yard waste, led to the overall rate increase.
The monthly cost of recycling service alone is going up 54 percent – from $4.65 to $7.16 per month.
And the yard waste charge is going up from $7.90 a month to $10.49 a month, an increase of 32.8 percent.
Customers will see various increases in individual bills depending on the size of their garbage cart and whether they use a yard waste bin.
The company has 51,400 customers outside the city of Spokane.
Michael Weinstein, senior pricing manager for Waste Management in Kirkland, Wash., said some customers could lower their garbage bills by reducing the size of their refuse cart.
That is possible because the new recycling system allows residents to put many types of materials – paper, foil, colored plastic, junk mail and other items – into the recycling cart instead of the refuse cart.
“The amount of material they can throw away with recycling has gone up considerably,” Weinstein said.
Recycling in the Spokane area is up 40 to 50 percent with the new blue bins, he said.
A resident with a 96-gallon refuse cart, a recycling cart and a yard waste cart will see their combined monthly bill go from $42.87 to $46.62, an increase of 8.7 percent.
But by downsizing to a 64-gallon refuse cart, the bill would drop to $39.32, for an 8 percent decrease. Going to a 32- or 20-gallon cart would bring even greater savings.
Residents currently using the 20-gallon refuse cart, the smallest available, along with recycling and yard waste carts, would see an increase of 18 percent from $24.34 to $28.91.
Company officials in their filing pointed out that Waste Management invested a large sum of money in new compressed natural gas vehicles and processing equipment for the new $18 million Spokane Material and Recycling Technology Center, which opened last October at 2902 S. Geiger Blvd.
In public comments received by the UTC, some residents complained about being required to pay for recycling. The majority of comments involved concern about higher prices in a slow economy and the effect on poor people.