This vote signaled the final chapter of an unpleasant saga that began the day I was inaugurated. On July 3, 2018, our garbage collector (Mill Valley Refuse Service; MVRS) came to the Council with bad news: China had abruptly stopped buying recyclables from the United States, causing an immediate crisis in the international recyclables market. As a result, MVRS had nowhere to send the recyclables it collected except to a select few distant facilities, causing the cost of recycling services to skyrocket.
Overnight, dealing with recyclables went from a modest revenue source for MVRS to a major expense, throwing the entire company's business model into turmoil.
MVRS determined that the best way forward might be to switch from single-stream (all recyclables go in the same bin) to dual-steam (paper and non-paper recyclables go in separate bins and are collected on alternating weeks) recycling, which would allow them to send the recyclables they collected to less expensive facilities.
They put together a pilot program to test this system, the results of which were presented to the Town Council. The pilot program made clear that while switching to a dual-stream system would require a new 4% increase in collection rates, sticking with single-stream would be far more expensive. In addition, dual-stream is better for the environment, as fewer recyclables end up ultimately being diverted to landfill.
Thus, while I don't particularly relish the added "hassle" (it's not actually that bad; my house was one of those included in the pilot program, and it was fine) of dual-stream, and while I certainly wasn't happy about another rate increase being needed, the economics of the situation made clear that we had little choice—and the environmental benefit was an added bonus.
My understanding is that this is the last extraordinary rate increase that will be needed in response to the fallout from China's unilateral decision to upend the recyclables market (future price adjustments due to inflation or market conditions should be expected, as with all things).