PASO ROBLES — On Mar. 3, the Paso Robles City Council directed City staff to examine the possibility of raising waste disposal rates for residential and commercial customers. In a 5-0 vote, the Council instructed staff to bring back a specific rate proposal at the next Council meeting on Tuesday, Mar. 17 and a resolution to begin the process of getting the increase on the ballot.

The last waste disposal fee increase was in 2015. The proposition approved a five-year increase from 2016 to 2020. 

For 25 years, the recycling industry was built on China’s acceptance of plastic waste. In 2017, China initiated its National Sword policy and banned plastic waste from being imported, turning the whole industry on its head. In the wake of the collapse of the recycling industry, the city’s waste disposal provider, Paso Robles Waste & Recycle, reported a net loss of $17,464 in 2018, according to the City’s rate study. The City’s contract with PRWR says that the company is guaranteed a “reasonable rate of return.” Public Works Director Dick McKinley said the industry standard hovers around 10 to 11 percent for a rate of return.

“Right now, they’re in the negative because of the recycling, because of the labor market for them,” McKinley said. “So the franchise agreement calls on them to provide this service every day to the people and the businesses in this community. What it doesn’t provide for is that they have to go bankrupt doing it.”