Ric Pocius: How to sustain recycling in Summit County
Mr. Hasenstab’s commentary on recycling does bring up valid points concerning the current state of recycling in Summit County. However, this should not be considered some new revelation. The county government has had numerous discussions over the course of the past three years as to how to fund recycling independently.
The recycling program costs approximately $800,000 a year to operate, of which the landfill operation, through tipping fees, subsidizes the program at a cost of $350,000-500,000 a year depending on the revenues the recycling program receives for the recycled materials collected. This continued subsidy is not sustainable, especially if the ultimate goal of the community is zero waste.
Trash tonnages at the landfill have been dropping since 2006 when they received 63,000 tons to last year when tonnage was 42,000 tons. During that same time period, recycle tonnage was level at approximately 3,500-3,800 tons per year. As Mr. Hasenstab stated, the economy did more to reduce landfill tonnage then recycling ever did. That not only includes construction debris but also household trash. People are making due with items that in the past would have been thrown into the trash.
The community needs to realize that recycling is a service, and like with any service it needs to be paid for in some manner. I do not think grants are the way to go, especially when you realize you would need to apply on an annual basis with no guarantee that the grant will be obtained and there are always strings attached to the grant. Also, I disagree with Mr. Hasenstab: I think the community would support a mil levy increase of 0.5-0.75 mils to support and expand the current recycling program. This would cost a a typical home $25-$35 a year, which is about one-tenth the cost a homeowner pays to have the trash picked up once a week.
Finally, just to put things into perspective and I am not advocating this approach: If we eliminated recycling completely and disposed of those materials in the landfill, the landfill life would be reduced from 80 years to approximately 75 years.
Ric Pocius is an engineer with Summit County Government who has served as director of the landfill.
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