Starting next July 1, all Johnston County property owners might have to pay a yearly $5 recycling fee.
Because of higher recycling costs and a slow economy in which households throw away less, the county’s 13 solid waste convenience sites are operating at a financial loss. The $65 decal households purchase to use the sites simply isn’t enough to cover expenses.
The county has kept the sites afloat partly with revenue from its profitable landfill operation, where towns and private haulers pay tipping fees. Also, the county has diverted $8 million from a state-mandated fund that’s supposed to be at $17.5 million and must be in place when the landfill closes 90 years from now.
To end the operating losses, the county needs to increase solid waste revenue by $500,000 annually, said Rick Proctor, director of the county’s solid waste services department.
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One option, suggested by a study committee, is to end the decal program and replace it with a $50 solid waste fee on rural property owners and a $5 recycling fee on all property owners, both rural and in town. Under that scenario, households that bought the decals in the past would see their cost fall to $55 annually from $65.
Looking to the future
As Johnston County residents continue to “go green,” Proctor expects recycling costs to increase and solid waste revenue to decline.
“Recycling collection is costly, and the money is rarely passed back to collections,” said Proctor.
The committee that ultimately recommended the $50 and $5 fees met for two and a half years and considered other options, including higher tipping fees, a more-expensive decal and reducing the number of convenience sites. An option that remains on the table: opening the landfill to more waste from outside of Johnston County.
“We may be the only county in the state with a decal program,” said County Manager Rick Hester. “The problem is the decals really aren’t priced to cover the cost.”
The Johnston County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on solid waste options at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, in the commissioners’ meeting room, Johnston County Courthouse, 207 E. Johnston St., Smithfield. The public hearing will follow hearings on land-use matters.