It would have been logical to assume Moscow’s solid waste tonnage increased and recyclable tonnage decreased with the Moscow City Council’s decision in August to restrict certain items accepted in the single-stream curbside recycling program
But the numbers tell a different story.
In 2017, Moscow residential and commercial solid waste tonnage totaled 9,331 tons. That number dropped slightly to 9,248 in 2018, according to numbers provided by Moscow Sanitation Operations Manager Tim Davis.
The total amount of recyclables that came through the Moscow Recycling Center decreased from 3,466 tons in 2017 to 3,289 tons in 2018.
Of the 3,466 tons recycled in 2017, 700 originated from the single-stream curbside program while 791 tons of the 3,289 in 2018 came from the same program.
Davis said the difference in the 2017 and 2018 numbers in all three categories are insignificant and tend to jump around from year to year.
He attributed the 11.5 percent spike in the single-stream curbside numbers to residents continuing to sign up for the program, which started in early 2016, and the fact the city implemented a commercial single-stream curbside program at the start of 2018.
“It’s not a huge amount, but you could definitely see a hike once we started the commercial,” Davis said.
Empty and clean metal, aluminum and tin cans, and mixed paper and cardboard that is clean, dry and without food debris is accepted in curbside carts.
Residents used to be able to throw No. 1 through 7 plastics into their recycling carts, but Latah Sanitation Inc. only accepts plastic bottles and jugs with screw tops, which typically fall under the No. 1 and No. 2 categories.
Milk jugs are still accepted, but yogurt and cottage cheese containers, for example, are not.
Shredded paper and pots and pans are now only accepted at the recycling center and no longer in curbside recycling carts. Plastic bags, aseptic packaging and aluminum foil are no longer accepted.
Davis said the items the city no longer accepts in its single-stream curbside program, which took effect about three months ago, amount to less than 4 percent of the total single-stream curbside volume by weight.
Since the city has not eliminated many recyclable commodities from its single-stream curbside program and residents continue to join the program, Davis said he believes the recycling and solid waste numbers will stay about the same from 2018 to 2019.
“I expect it to keep flowing about the way it’s been going,” Davis said.
Davis told the City Council in August that China has historically been the end market for many of the recyclable materials in the U.S., however, China imposed new regulations in July 2017 that severely restricted the importation of low-grade and contaminated recyclables, causing demand to significantly decrease.
Davis said China implemented a 0.5 percent allowable contamination rate.
“If they want to get more stringent, they’ve only got a half a percent to work with, and it’s hard to reach that,” he said.
Davis said he expects all currently acceptable items in the single-stream curbside program and at the recycling center to continue to be accepted in the near future.
He said the materials recovery facilities Moscow works with is what will drive what the city accepts in its single-stream curbside program.
If those facilities do not accept a commodity or don’t have a market for it, then Moscow will likely stop accepting that material from residents, Davis said.
“We’re pretty much reliant on what those folks accept and what they can market,” he said.
Davis said recyclables from the single-stream curbside program are collected on the street and baled at the recycling center before being shipped to Republic Services, a recycling and waste disposal service in Seattle.
Moscow Recycling Center Manager Josh Lunt said Moscow ships out an average of 27 tons of recyclables per week to Republic Services.
All the other recyclables collected at the recycling center are sold to facilities all over the western U.S., Lunt said.
He said he sends some cardboard loads to places like Tacoma and Port Townsend, Wash., some plastic bales are sold to Spokane and mixed paper often goes to a mill in Tacoma or Santa Clara, Calif.
Davis said solid waste collected in Moscow and Latah County is taken to the Solid Waste Processing Facility off State Highway 8 east of Moscow before being transported to Finley Buttes Landfill in Boardman, Ore.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.