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Auburn city councilors vote to end recycling program

In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 22, 2014, garbage collector Anousone Sadettanh runs to his truck with a small residential garbage bin as larger yard waste and recycling bins stand behind as he works his pickup route in Seattle. Fail to recycle in Seattle and you can get a ticket from the garbage collector. The city says it will start enforcing new recycling requirements on Jan. 1 with warning tags. Careless residents will start seeing fines July 1 on their bills — $1 per violation, $50 for a commercial or apartment building.
Elaine Thompson
/
AP
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 22, 2014, garbage collector Anousone Sadettanh runs to his truck with a small residential garbage bin as larger yard waste and recycling bins stand behind as he works his pickup route in Seattle.

Auburn councilors voted unanimously Monday night to eliminate the city's recycling program.

Councilor Stephen Milks, who made the motion, said the program is no longer worth it.

"And I realize that many people put a lot of time and effort into this program," said Milks. "However, the program is not working effectively for the amount it costs."

Councilors said it costs $144 a ton to process recycling versus $42-a-ton to process waste at a facility where it's burnt and converted into energy. And Mayor Jason Levesque says only 7% of residents recycle.

"It sounds harsh. I got to tell you, I'm having a hard time,' said Levesque. "You know, and had many conversations with people, including my own wife about this, who's an avid recycler. But when we look past getting it picked up on the side of the road, we realize what's really happening out there. Stuff that's beyond our control."

The city will save $227,000 by not recycling. Councilors say that will cover half the cost of new trash bins that will soon be required by Casella waste.

A 2020 report from an ad hoc recycling committee found a lack of data transparency to accurately evaluate Auburn's recycling performance. It found that processing costs could be lowered if more Auburn residents recycled, and recommended the city provide better community education. It also suggested the city consider switching contractors or negotiating a better contract.