Waste Management bills are going up 18 cents a month per household starting Oct. 1, and to keep that increase from getting any higher, recycling will be picked up every other week beginning at the same time.
The company will still pick up trash weekly.
The Rio Rancho Governing Body unanimously approved the adjustment, with City Councilor Marlene Feuer absent, at its meeting Wednesday at City Hall.
Waste Management New Mexico Manager of Public Sector Solutions Dan Darnell said residents would get a calendar showing which weeks their recycling would be picked up, and it would happen on the same day as trash collection. If people need a second recycling bin, it will cost about $7 per month.
During a public comment period, Rio Rancho resident Mike Jackovich said he’s a “power recycler.”
“We fill our bin almost every week,” he said.
Jackovich said he wasn’t happy with every-other-week pickup of recyclables, “but if that’s what we have to go to to save us money, I’m all for it.”
Last December, the governing body denied Waste Management’s request for a rate increase of 44 cents per month per household to cover unexpected rises in disposal fees at Friedman Recycling in Albuquerque, the lone recycling processing facility in the region. Darnell, also a Rio Rancho resident, said the denial triggered an appeal process and presentation of several other options.
“Our agreement with the city is a hauling contract,” Darnell said.
Waste Management transports trash and recyclable materials, and pays disposal fees for dropping them off at the landfill and Friedman, respectively. Darnell said Waste Management charges ratepayers to recover disposal fees but doesn’t make any profit from that portion of the bill.
Friedman Recycling disposal fees have increased from $15 a ton to $75.78 a ton in the last 18 months, he said, and Waste Management can’t continue to eat the cost. Recycling facilities in other places have raised disposal fees even more, because prices for recyclable commodities have dropped due to high supply and lower demand since China recently stopped importing them, Darnell said.
He said he expects the market to stabilize soon and not keep dropping.
He gave several options:
• The eventually chosen option of reducing curbside service to every other week, resulting in savings in operational costs keeping the rate increase at 18 cents per month;
• Continue to pick up recycling every week and increase rates by 68 cents a month per residential customer;
• Put recyclables in the landfill, but keep the recycling infrastructure in place in order to use it again when the market improves, necessitating an increase of 29 cents per month;
• Dismantle the curbside recycling program, allowing bills to decrease by $2.56 per month;
• Replace curbside pickup with a drop-off collection system, which would be expensive to set up, likely cut recycling participation in half and not work well; or
• Have city government pay for the whole increase, more than $253,000 a year.
Councilor Jennifer Flor said the every-other-week option was fair.
“I don’t think ending recycling would ever be an option,” she said.
On the other hand, Councilor Jim Owen said he was concerned about residents on fixed incomes and about people being angry over repeated changes in the rates.
“I see this as a creeping disease,” he said. “I’ve never seen a price go down.”
In other business, governing body members designated polling places for the March 2020 municipal election, including moving the Enchanted Hills location from Mountain View Middle School to the Plaza at Enchanted Hills.