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“The Impact”: Crushing Pressure on Recycling Programs; 2018 Campaign Spending Trends and Complaints

Mike McClanahan profile by Mike McClanahan

On “The Impact”

Is the stuff in your recycling bin secretly headed for a landfill? The demand for certain items helps offset the cost of recycling programs, but a policy shift in China means many recycling programs are getting more expensive or falling apart. China’s “National Sword” policy took effect at the start of 2018 banning the importation of certain types of plastic and paper refuse. Since then, Washington state regulators say more recyclables have been stacking up in landfills even as curbside recycling program fees have shot up. The state Utilities and Transportation Commission is urging counties to review their recycling contracts with solid waste haulers and consider scrapping provisions that aren’t working as intended.

“With this new Chinese policy… so much of the recycling went to China that they don’t have a market now,” said Dave Danner, Chairman of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.  “We’ve had a number of companies; more than 30 companies come in asking for rate increases because they’re not getting profit from selling the materials,” said Danner. “In Bainbridge it was $4.50 in one part of Snohomish County it was more than $5.25.  So if you’re having those kinds of monthly increases in bills we really need to be looking at our plans.”

“So when we are asking people to put glass or milk cartons or shredded paper in their recycling bins there’s no markets for those things. And they end up going through the recycling bin to a processing center where a lot of hands are touching it before a lot of it ends up going to a landfill because they can’t sell the materials anymore,” said Danner.  “And so what we’ve asked counties to do is take a look at your solid waste plans. If you’re asking for us to put recyclable materials in the bin that don’t have a value, those are going to end up in a landfill and we’re paying a lot for processing those on their way to the landfill. If they’re going to a landfill directly, let’s just take it to a landfill and keep the prices lower.”

The 2018 election cycle didn’t break all-time campaign spending record for a state legislative office, but it did raise the bar for initiative spending in the Evergreen State, according to Public Disclosure Commission Executive Director Peter Lavallee.  In addition to tracking money, Lavallee says PDC staff have been dealing with near historic numbers of campaign related complaints.

“Initiatives, it looks like we’re breaking records on the Carbon Fee. We’ve already seen election spending more than we’ve ever seen up against an initiative before and the overall spending on that initiative, both sides, will break the overall record as well. On the other side, on the pro-side, I think it looks like the Yes to Affordable Groceries is what the initiative is called, that one’s going to break a pro-initiative spending record as well this year,” said Lavallee. “The number of complaints has gone up almost linearly over say the last five years. The agency used to get maybe thirty, forty, fifty complaints a year. Last year we got over six hundred and we expect to have four or five hundred or more this year.”

Perennial initiative sponsor and anti-tax advocate Tim Eyman is campaigning for an initiative to the legislature to bring back thirty dollar car tabs. The initiative would also require that vehicle valuation fees be based on the Kelley Blue Book value of vehicles instead of the MSRP valuation schedule at the center of controversy over the Sound Transit Three initiative that passed in 2016.

On a mid-November Wednesday Eyman and supporters dropped off just over 286,000 signatures at the Secretary of State’s Elections Office in Olympia. They need about 40,000 more before the end of the year to qualify.

Click here to watch “The Impact” – November 14th, 2018


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