The cost of making a run to the dump is about to go up — way up.
On Jan. 1, the minimum tipping fee for disposing of household waste at Coffin Butte Landfill north of Corvallis will virtually triple, from $28.75 to $85.75. At the same time, the allowable size of a load covered by that minimum fee will increase as well, from 500 pounds to 2,000 pounds — an even ton.
A similar increase will apply at Republic’s Lebanon Transfer Station in Linn County, which currently charges $33 per cubic yard for household waste. (The rate for disposing of yard debris at the process and recovery center on Camp Adair Road will not change.)
Officials in the local office of Republic Services, the waste-handling corporation that owns Benton County’s only landfill, say the price increase will bring Coffin Butte into line with other landfills in the region. Lane County residents, for instance, pay $80 a ton to landfill household waste, while the rate in Marion County is $107.45 a ton.
On the other hand, landfills in both counties offer pro-rated prices for smaller loads delivered to outlying transfer stations. At the Salem-Keizer Recycling and Transfer Station in Marion County, the minimum charge is $25, while Lane County residents can drop off a load at the Glenwood Transfer Station for as little as 12 bucks.
There is no transfer station in Benton County.
According to Julie Jackson, municipal manager for Republic Services in the mid-valley, the main reason for the price hike is to discourage the general public from bringing their trash to the landfill.
“We have a lot of traffic in and out of the Coffin Butte Landfill,” she told the Benton County Board of Commissioners at a work session on Tuesday. “It’s becoming increasingly dangerous to have the public there.”
Coffin Butte is a regional landfill that accepts solid waste from multiple counties, and the amount coming in continues to grow as the area’s population increases and some landfills near capacity and scale back, such as the Riverbend Landfill near McMinnville.
Data provided by Republic Services shows Coffin Butte takes in about 2,000 tons of waste per day, which translates into an average of 340 daily vehicle trips. Most of those runs are made by big commercial vehicles operated by Republic Services and other companies, but the landfill only has one set of scales, meaning commercial haulers making multiple trips per day sometimes get stuck behind a line of private vehicles, cutting into the operation’s overall efficiency. The situation can also create potential safety hazards as private citizens with pickups and utility trailers jockey for position with massive garbage trucks.
Republic is also concerned that low tipping fees may encourage people to chuck recyclable items into the back of the truck when making a run to the dump, Jackson told the commissioners. But some county officials fear the hefty price increase could cause other problems — such as an increase in illegal dumping.
“If the rates go up (some people) are not going to bring their stuff to the landfill,” County Administrator Joe Kerby said at Tuesday’s work session. “And that can create enforcement issues.”
In an interview with the Gazette-Times, Jackson pointed out that there are other ways to dispose of household waste besides taking it to the dump, even if it won’t fit in a standard 35-gallon trash cart.
Republic Services customers in Oregon can order carts as small as 20 gallons or as large as 90 gallons, depending on their needs. They can also request special pickups for large items.
The company charges $35.16 to pick up a mattress or box spring, $36.29 for furniture items, $35.16 for an appliance that does not contain Freon, $45.34 for an appliance that does contain Freon and $119.92 to cart off a dead deer (“You would be amazed at how often we have to pick one up,” Jackson said).
For big cleanup projects, customers can rent a dumpster. For a 1.5-cubic-yard bin, the cost is $44.45 for pickup and removal plus $30.67 a month, prorated based on the number of days you keep it. For a 30-yard model, the cost is $53.61 for delivery, $202.50 for removal and a rental fee of $142.95 per month.
“We think there are a lot of cost-effective options for folks,” Jackson said.
Perhaps, but the impending tipping fee increase has generated a disgruntled buzz on social media and prompted several people to contact the newspaper with their concerns.
Corvallis real estate broker Anneliese Gast told the Gazette-Times she thinks the price hike is too steep.
“I try to have as little waste as possible, but sometimes things break and you have to take them to the dump,” she said.
She’s also worried about the impact on people of limited means.
“For a lot of community members, that’s going to be more than they can afford,” Gast said. “That’s groceries for some folks.”
Xan Augerot, chair of the Benton County Board of Commissioners, said the board has only received one complaint so far and she believes the price increase is justified. With other landfills around the region closing down, she pointed out, space in facilities such as Coffin Butte is at a premium.
“One way to deal with a scarce resource is to have pricing redirect waste to other places,” Augerot said.
“For people that make one or two trips a year, it will increase their costs, but I don’t think it’s exorbitant.”
Jackson said raising the minimum tipping fee could also pay dividends for all Republic Services customers down the road. Minimizing the number of private vehicles at the landfill would help ensure Republic’s garbage trucks can complete their routes efficiently, helping to hold down the company’s operating costs.
“As there’s more traffic, everybody has to wait longer. It makes a lot more sense for residential customers for small loads to be collected in a different way, if that works for folks,” Jackson said.
“In the long run, not having as many residential customers there will keep the rates down for everyone, we think.”