Well, they went ahead and did it. Lame duck Angie Homola and fellow Democratic Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson adopted a curbside recycling program, appropriately ending environmentalist Homola’s one term with an environmental victory.
Aside from the issue of a lame duck making a major decision that will affect county residents for years to come, the recycling program offers some benefits and concerns.
No doubt the recycle rate on Whidbey Island will increase, something that has been a goal of many Island County citizens for years. Recycling was always a do-it-yourself task, by hauling materials either to the county’s recycle park at Bayview or the privately owned Island Recycling in Freeland. Having a truck stop by the house will be much simpler and create more recyclers.
However, there’s a certainty that Island Disposal, owned by Waste Connections, will lose some customers facing an expected price increase of roughly $11 per month to cover the cost of picking up recyclables from every garbage customer. That’s not chicken feed to a lot of struggling families and seniors, who may find it’s cheaper to cancel garbage service, self-haul garbage and continue to do their own recycling. Some people, no doubt, will find rural roads a fine place to dispose of their garbage at no cost to themselves.
If too many people cancel their garbage pickup, the program could be put at risk. Families already paying for two cans a week won’t see a huge price increase with the added $11, but for one-can families the price difference is substantial. Logically, the burden will fall heaviest on retirees or those with no children churning out garbage.
The fact glass is omitted from the recycling program is another concern. People may resent paying another $11 a month while still having to self-haul glass to the recycling centers. To teetotalers this won’t be a big deal, but wine swillers and beer guzzlers may rebel. The policy does, however, assure that Island Recycling, a beloved South Whidbey institution, won’t lose as much business as it might have.
Ultimately, we may discover that this is another issue that isn’t over until it’s over. If too many Island Disposal customers cancel their service, the commissioners, now with a Republican majority, may face a choice between canceling the recycling program or make paying for garbage and recycling services mandatory for all residents. In other words, it’s a bit early for recycling fans to declare victory.