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OCRRA institutes residential recycling fee, citing “skyrocketing” costs

By Eric Reinhardt (


OCRRA Amboy compost site (CNYBJ file photo by Adam Rombel)


SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA) has instituted a new residential recycling tip fee of $34 per ton.

The fee will cover about half the cost to sort and market residential recyclables. OCRRA will maintain these same fees for both 2021 and 2022.

The agency has also increased its trash fee by $5 per ton. Both fees are part of the agency’s 2021 budget, which its board of directors adopted during a Tuesday meeting.

OCRRA says it could no longer maintain the zero-tip fee for residential recycling, “in the wake of sustained low commodity values and skyrocketing recycling costs,” per its Wednesday news release.

OCRRA deemed it “necessary” to share costs directly with haulers that deliver residential recyclables and to raise the trash-tipping fee to continue the county’s recycling program.

“The new recycling tip fee will equate to an additional charge of $1 per month per household in Onondaga County, or $12 per year,” John Copanas, OCRRA chair of the OCRRA board of directors, said.

Between 2018 and the end of this year, OCRRA projects spending close to $5 million to sustain curbside recycling. In 2020, OCRRA used reserves — budgeted at $1 million — to cover the rising cost of recycling and held trash fees steady to keep costs down for residents.

In 2021, those steps are no longer sustainable, per its release. OCRRA says it is a self-funded authority, not an arm of county government, and is funded primarily through trash disposal fees.

Realizing that the changing global recycling markets posed a “significant impact” locally, OCRRA in 2019 set up an ad-hoc committee of its board of directors to evaluate options. The committee’s work produced OCRRA’s Recycling 2020 report. This year, a second ad-hoc committee worked on developing a viable recycling strategy for the 2021 budget, OCRRA said.



“Extremely challenging” economic times threaten curbside recycling, OCRRA contends.

The agency points to 2018 when it says the industry “changed drastically,” noting that China “effectively closed its doors to recycling — flooding markets with material.” That development, the agency says, “drove the value of recyclables down precipitously.”

OCRRA described China as “once half of the world’s destination for recyclables.”

“The value of recycling exists even when commodity prices fail to cover the costs of sorting and processing recyclables for reuse,” Dereth Glance, OCRRA executive director, said. “Turning old products into new products provides real value by saving finite natural resources, reducing waste, and conserving energy, while also providing a local source of raw materials to support local manufacturing jobs.”

Sorting and marketing recyclables has always had a cost, according to OCRRA. The sale of the recyclables has “historically” covered that cost, but that hasn’t been the case “for the last three years,” the agency added.



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