The recycling market is in turmoil, and it will take time to sort out where the industry goes from here. In the meantime, it's important to make sure that ratepayers are not charged increased fees for "recycling" that doesn't get recycled.
The turmoil began when China, the world's foremost purchaser of recyclable materials, announced it would cut back on what it would accept and tighten restrictions on the amount of contamination allowed in materials it accepts. That's a reasonable step from China's standpoint, because material it can't use ends up in its own landfills.
Waste disposal companies here, which have depended on the Chinese market for the recyclable materials they collect, are stuck having to pay higher prices to ship the materials, when they once made money. Ultimately, ratepayers will have to absorb those higher prices in the form of surcharges.
If they pay more and the material actually gets recycled, that's one thing. But Rogue Materials Recovery, a local aggregator, told the city of Ashland there is no guarantee materials shipped to them will be recycled.
State environmental officials have offered local governments the option of landfilling all the material for six months at a lower cost. City councilors said that should be a last resort.
They're right. But ratepayers shouldn't be asked to pay more if the materials collected might end up in a landfill anyway. It might be better to take the lower-cost option until waste hauling companies can secure dependable new markets for recyclable material.