The recycling center can no longer subsidize the cost of yard waste recycling due to a decrease in single-stream recycling.

Courtesy of Tompkins County Department of Recycling and Materials Management

The recycling center can no longer subsidize the cost of yard waste recycling due to a decrease in single-stream recycling.

February 20, 2020

New Yard Waste Fees at Tompkins County Recycling

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Disposing yard waste — the leaves and brush that clutter yards each fall — is about to get more expensive in Tompkins County.  

The Tompkins County Recycling Center announced in a statement on Feb. 12 that there will now be a fee for dropping off yard waste — which was previously free of charge.

According to the TCRC website, a $20 permit was already required for use of the center, but now permit-holders must pay for the disposal of yard waste in one of three ways: purchasing an $8 coupon that allows residents to dispose of one vehicle load, using a punch card that permits for six vehicle loads for $12 or for paying $90 per ton for commercial vehicles.

“In recent years, single-stream recycling revenue has declined substantially,” said Barbara Ekstrom, TCRC director of recycling and materials. “As a result, we can no longer subsidize the cost of yard waste handling and processing through the recycling revenues and need to collect fees to pay for this service.”  

The Tompkins County Legislature was responsible for enacting these fees in response to this decrease in revenue, according to Ekstrom.  

While there were worries that these new fees would cause residents to dispose of their yard waste with their trash, but Ekstrom managed to assuage these concerns.

“Yard waste is not accepted in [regular trash] waste, and it costs more to dispose of waste than yard waste,” Ekstrom said, pointing to the fact that it costs $2.40 per trash bag to be picked up while it only costs $2 to drop off a bag of yard waste with a punch card.  

Ekstrom has not heard much feedback on the fees yet, but said that throughout the winter, there has not been much yard waste. Generally, Ithaca residents have “wondered why we put those fees in place.”  

Ithaca resident Michael Dow heard of the new fees, but thought they were reasonable. 

“Recycling doesn’t make any money,” Dow said. “They turn some plastic into a bottle and only get a penny for it. I am surprised [TCRC] doesn’t charge more for their services.”