For years, recycling in Mecklenburg County fetched big money for the county’s fee-driven Land Use and Environmental Services Agency.
But with the glut of cheap oil and the collapse of the recycling market – of such items as newspaper, cardboard, aluminum and other metals – the agency that oversees Mecklenburg’s landfills and recycling lost more than $3 million in the current fiscal year, said LUESA director Ebenezer Gujjarlapudi.
To restore some of the lost revenue, Gujjarlapudi on Tuesday proposed modest fee adjustments to Mecklenburg County commissioners for their consideration during the budget season.
“Without those revenues, we have two options: we either stop providing some services, or we raise the fees,” he said in an interview. “Solid waste is an enterprise fund; we get no money from property taxes. It’s completely paid for by fees and charges. The revenues from recycling subsidize a lot of things.”
Fees for residential solid waste would go up $3 for each household, from $17 in the current fiscal year to $20 in 2017. That would be a $5 raise since fiscal year 2015. The fee would go up to $24 a year for each house by 2019.
Construction and demolition fees at the county-owned Foxhole Landfill on U.S. 521 near Ballantyne would increase from $41 to $44 a ton, netting the agency about $224,000.
At Speedway Landfill in Cabarrus County, where the county has a contract to dump construction and demolition materials, the fee would rise $3, from $30.50 a ton in fiscal year 2017 to $33.50 in 2019.
The agency has other pressures to deal with, including the rising costs of running landfills and repairing bulldozers and other machinery – or buying new ones.
Recycling TVs got the most discussion among commissioners.
Gujjarlapudi said that it cost LUESA more than $400,000 the past year to get electronic recyclers to properly dispose of discarded TVs.
He proposed that Mecklenburg residents pay $10 for each television or monitor they discard at recycle centers. Out-of-county residents would pay $25. State law bans electronics in landfills.
Some commissioners worried that many residents would abandon their old sets in woods – or drop them in dumpsters – if they had to pay to discard them.
Gujjarlapudi said he felt most county residents would correctly dispose of their sets, even if they had to pay. “I think we do have a lot of citizens who would take their commitment seriously and do the right thing,” he said.