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Tacoma recycling proposal would add new fee, eliminate curbside pickup for glass

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Adrian Florez

Tacoma residents may soon pay more to recycle.

A proposal under consideration by the Tacoma City Council would tack on a new $3.40 monthly surcharge for residential customers.

It also would prevent curbside recycling of glass. Instead, residents would have to dispose of glass at drop-off spots, such as the Tacoma Recycle Center.

Like many West Coast cities, Tacoma is caught in a global shift in the recycling market as China has stopped accepting much of the world’s plastic waste. The new policy is putting a strain on U.S recycling programs like Tacoma’s.

Preston Peck, a project specialist for the City of Tacoma, said the new fee for ratepayers will cover “the increased marketing, shipping and processing fees” due to the changes in China.

“If we continued without the surcharge or anything, we would be somewhere between $1.8 and $1.9 million in the hole,” Peck said.

The changes will affect single family homes and duplexes – not apartment complexes – which equals about 56,000 customers.

All residential customers would be required to pay the surcharge, which is included with the city’s garbage services.

"The City of Tacoma is trying to balance both our environment goals, while also minimizing the cost burden on our residential customers,” Peck said.

Earlier this year, the city floated several different scenarios for its recycling program and solicited feedback from the public. Tacoma residents registered more than 7,000 responses.

Eliminating curbside recycling received the least support. The most popular idea was to add a surcharge and new restrictions, such as requiring glass to be dropped off at designated locations.

There also was major support for more outreach and education about the recycling rules. A portion of the new surcharge will go toward those efforts.

The city is still fine-tuning the proposal. A study session will be held in Tacoma on Aug. 13.

City Council members are expected to vote on the measure in the fall. The changes would then take effect in January.