Welcome to Oregon, where your efforts to conserve may get you fined.

In Marion County, recycling officials will pilfer through trash and charge residents for including “wrong” materials in their recycle bins. Offenders could be fined as much as $15.45 per trash pickup.

Previously, fines were only issued to egregious repeat offenders. But not anymore.

From the Statesman Journal:

“We’re going to monitor everybody a lot more closely,” said Art Kuenzi, manager of Suburban Garbage Service, speaking on behalf of the Mid-Valley Garbage & Recycling Association.

The seven garbage haulers who make up the association told their customers about the new recycling rules and the potential fine in a postcard mailed last week. They also apply to West Salem residents who live in Polk County.

The changes are in response to China’s decision, effective Jan. 1, to stop taking most recyclables from the Western world. China previously took most of Oregon’s recycling.

Residents aren’t happy.

Trash and recycling services who work for the county say they haven’t made a profit or even broken even on recycling services, so, they’re passing the cost down to the recycling haulers, who in turn, requested the fines to help offset costs. Now consumers are getting slapped with the bill.

But Kuenzi said haulers won’t cut prices for recycling. Instead, they’re working with the county and cities to explore imposing a recycling surcharge.

“We have never been paid for recyclables (in an) amount that offsets the cost for us,” he said. “For all the equipment and manpower we use to collect recycling, now that we’re not getting paid to deliver our recyclables, we’re getting a bill.”

Garten Services takes about half of Marion County’s recycling.

It used to be able to cover the cost of sorting and hauling recycling by selling the commodities, Garten spokeswoman Gaelen McAllister said.

“Now, in some cases we have to pay to send stuff to be recycled,” she said. “So, we’re passing those charges back to the haulers.”

It’s a hard lesson in capitalism for the country’s eco-activist paradise.