A truck from Suburban Garbage Services approaches cans on Southeast 45th Avenue in November 2018. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)

Your garbage bill may go up again in January, thanks in part to that still-strained recycling market.

On either side of the Willamette River, a Salem resident with a typical, 35-gallon cart can expect to pay close to $1 extra per month. Monthly costs will rise in Marion and Polk counties from $29.50 and $23.85, respectively, to $30.75 and $25.05.

Those rates would rise again to $32.05 and $26.30 per month, respectively, in 2021.

Salem City Council will discuss the new rates Tuesday night. City staff are recommending councilors pass the hikes.

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Salem officials revisit garbage rates every two years, as part of the city’s contract with the Mid-Valley Garbage and Recycling Association. The association represents six waste haulers in the region.

However, Tuesday’s discussion marks the third year in a row that Salem officials have considered rate increases.

Last year, haulers asked for an emergency rate increase to help weather the industry-wide turbulence created when China in 2017 stopped accepting imported paper and plastics from around the world.

That caused a chain reaction. Recycling processors, like Garten Services in Salem, saw their expenses rise, so they charged more for every ton of recycling that haulers brought to them.

Haulers then passed that cost down to their customers. Salem residents in Marion and Polk counties saw garbage bills rise 10% and 15%, respectively, in 2019.

READ: The city of Salem staff report on proposed garbage rates.

The proposed price hikes Tuesday aren’t as dramatic: 4% and 5%, respectively.

Ryan Zink, who oversees the contracts for the city of Salem, said processors, haulers and other industry players are still untangling the market -- but there are signs the costs are flattening out.

“I think we’re at a new normal,” Zink said.

Other factors are contributing to the added cost, too, officials said. Diesel fuel, worker wages and benefits, and ongoing truck maintenance are all expected to get more expensive with inflation.

Besides Zink, the city of Salem contracted Bell & Associates, Inc. to review the proposed rate increases and the costs to haulers.

“It is vetted out, I feel, very well,” said Kevin Hines, general manager for the Mid-Valley Garbage and Recycling Association. “At the end of the day when we look at reasonable rates, we’ve gone through a process that makes sense.”

The proposals to be discussed Tuesday did not take into account any potential changes with Covanta Marion.

“They did not build into this cost Covanta changing service,” Zink said.

Most garbage in Marion County is hauled to that facility in Brooks, where it is then burned, exhausted and used to generate electricity. But the company has made overtures it could close if state lawmakers during the next legislative session don’t tag it as a renewable energy source.

Such a designation would enable Covanta to make a reported $5 million per year by selling its power at a premium to Portland General Electric.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.


Salem officials find turbulent recycling market pinching local garbage haulers (Nov. 9, 2018)

Marion County gives trash burner another year to win state tax credits (Sept. 19, 2019)