A recent decision by the Harvey County Commission has left cities to make decisions about recycling programs on their own — and in the case of Newton, with no option but to increase sanitation rates as early as next year.

That will affect more than 7,250 residences in the city of Newton.

"We, as the city, are in charge of the collection of your waste and recyclables," said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works for the city of Newton. "The county is in charge of taking that waste and doing what they need to do with it — whether that recycles it or bury it in a landfill. That is an issue we do not get involved with.

"When the county passes a resolution of what they will accept at their facility, then we have to collect in that manner."

The city commission will be presented with three options Dec. 10 for the future of recycling — mandatory recycling for residents, voluntary recycling for residents or no recycling at all.

According to a document in the city commission packet prepared for the Dec. 10 meeting, the least expensive path forward for the city is to discontinue recycling, which would mean a cost increase of between $27,600 and $42,800 to the city — depending on tipping fee increases, as tipping fees for waste are higher than fees for recycling. For 2020 the tipping fee for trash will be $35/ton, while recycling will be $19 per ton.

Continuing mandatory recycling would cost about $11,400 — the bulk of that staff increases to begin inspecting recycling containers before they are dumped into trucks. At one time in the city, all recycling containers were inspected — and those with items not eligible for recycling were rejected. Repeat offenders were ticketed and fined. The city did away with that practice when purchasing trucks with automated arms.

If the city moves to a voluntary recycling platform, who will pay the fees will need to be decided by the city commission. The commission could choose to only charge those residents who use the service or charge a flat fee to all sanitation customers. Voluntary recycling would mean changing the number of trucks on the road as well — with three trash trucks operated four days a week and one recycling truck four days a week. Elimination of recycling would mean three trash trucks operate four days a week.

Due to contamination of recyclables being dumped at the transfer station and negotiations between Harvey County and contractor Waste Connections, the county commission was faced with paying significantly higher fees for recycling, sorting and shipping services or scrapping recycling as a mandatory program or all together. The county and municipalities discussed the issue at the Harvey County Council of Governments before taking action.

That action included changing county ordinances to eliminate mandatory recycling — though recycling will be offered at the Transfer Station under contract with Waste Connections. The county also agreed to a disciplinary/fee structure to deal with contamination in the recycling brought to the sorting facility.

Under a new agreement, any loads brought to the facility containing more than 10% contamination, the truck will be banned for 30 days. The second load of more than 10% would be subject to a $350 fee and an additional 30-day ban. Waste Connections is willing to not raise tipping fees that are in the current contract with the county through 2022.

As a result of that action, cities are faced with whether to continue recycling collections — or not. Should cities choose to eliminate collections, residents can take their recycling to the Transfer Station on their own. There would be no fee for using the self-sort system at the transfer station.

Recyclable items include aluminum or steel food containers; plastic containers labeled one through seven used for food, soap, lotion or household cleaners; glass food and drink containers; clean pasteboard and mixed paper; and corrugated cardboard.