City Council approves trash rate increase amid China’s refusal of most U.S. recyclables

FILE PHOTO: Waste Management collects trash and recycling bins on May 26, 2019 in Canyon Country. Emily Alvarenga/The Signal

Starting Jan. 11, most Santa Clarita businesses will see a nearly 40% increase to their monthly waste-disposal services amid global changes to the recycling industry that are prompting waste-management companies to ask for rate adjustments. 

Burrtec Waste Industries Inc., which provides commercial solid waste management services to nearly all businesses within city limits, has adjusted its rates by incorporating a new $2.29 per cubic-yard fee to Santa Clarita’s current rate structure to fund recycling operations. 

The addition comes after unanimous adoption by the Santa Clarita City Council on Tuesday of an agreement between the city and Burrtec to allow for an “extraordinary” rate requested by the waste company. 

With the adjustment, a 3-cubic-yard container that is serviced once per week would increase from $90.90 to $123.98 per month, or a monthly increase of $33.08, according to Burrtec’s request via a letter to the city. 

Rates have most recently increased mainly due to changes in the Chinese recycling markets under China’s National Sword policy, which was enacted in January 2018. 

For decades, China has been the largest importer of waste, such as paper, plastic and scrap metal, worldwide, including from the United States. But with strict contamination thresholds, the country implemented the policy, which bans the importation of certain types of materials like mixed paper and some plastics and ultimately increases the cost of processing recyclables. 

“These drastic changes in the recycling market have been highly impactful to waste collectors because they rely upon revenues from the sale of recycled materials to offset operational costs and rates,” read a city staff report. 

Even with the recent fee increase, Santa Clarita’s commercial waste rates will remain among the lowest in Los Angeles County, which averages at nearly $160 per month. A consulting group hired by the city found that “because the rates were so low, often businesses signed up for more services than what they needed,” said Darin Seegmiller, a city environmental services manager.   

What’s needed to help amid a local market collapse are “domestic recycling plants, not centers but plants for processing recycling paper and produce it to new paper. It’s going to be rough for the next few years,” said Dennis Verner, manager for Burrtec’s SCV division, adding that grocery stores are among the most affected. 

The changes have also taken a toll on recycling centers. In August, California’s largest recycler rePlanet, with locations in the Santa Clarita Valley, announced that it ceased operations across its 284 centers. 

Nearly half a dozen local businesses, including grocery markets, declined to comment on the matter, but Verner said that after speaking with Santa Clarita businesses, he said “they understand that it’s the cost of doing business, like when fuel goes up.” 

On Tuesday, the City Council received several written comments in support of the rate increase. The SCV Chamber of Commerce also voiced its support via a letter to council members, saying “although we are not proponents of increased costs or fees, we understand that these rate changes are necessary to cover the unanticipated basic cost of doing business.” ν

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