Recycling changes under way

 

Paul Harvey, a newspaper carrier, throws old newspapers into a recycle bin at the Kent County Recycling Center in Cheswold, where work is taking place to expand the center’s recycling options. The state is reducing the overall number of recycling centers, but will maintain the facility off Fork Branch Road. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Paul Harvey, a newspaper carrier, throws old newspapers into a recycle bin at the Kent County Recycling Center in Cheswold, where work is taking place to expand the center’s recycling options. The state is reducing the overall number of recycling centers, but will maintain the facility off Fork Branch Road. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Recycling Drop-Off Centers are becoming extinct at popular shopping spots and other places throughout Delaware that have featured them for convenience in recent years.

Mike Parkowski, chief of business and governmental services for the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, said the organization has been forced to make changes to its recycling program due to several factors.

Perhaps the biggest one is that The Universal Recycling Law has provided the opportunity for curbside recycling for every home in Delaware. That, in turn, has significantly decreased the participation of recyclers at Drop-Off Centers.

Now, about 364,000 single-family households in the state receive curbside recycling service. About 25,000 households still haul their own trash and recycling.

Last year, the state recycled about 404,000 tons of material and its recycling rate was 42 percent.

While the expansion of curbside recycling has proven to be a good thing for most Delaware residents, it hasn’t been all that great to the state’s Drop-Off Centers.

“Really, what we’re trying to accomplish is fixing a problem where we’ve seen problems over the last three or four years with the way that the sites are being used,” Mr. Parkowski said. “One of the biggest problems has been people dumping illegally.

“When curbside recycling started in 2011 a lot of the good recyclers stopped using these centers because they could have it at their house. So what ended up happening was that people who probably aren’t the best recyclers saw it as an opportunity to throw away trash and dump their furniture and things they don’t want, and that was causing a problem.”

Mr. Parkowski added that recycling bins can become worthless quickly due to misuse.

“Quite frankly, the (recycling bins) that were just out in a shopping center or a parking lot somewhere, the material was all dirty because people were putting trash in there and then it contaminates the good stuff and it has to be thrown away,” he said. “It was kind of defeating the purpose of having the center there to begin with.

“It has escalated a lot more recently where people started putting trash into the centers.”

Streamlining the recycling Drop-Off program

So the DSWA has decided to streamline its Drop-Off Centers to four main locations between the start of 2017 and next summer – the Cheswold Collection Station off Fork Branch Road, the Delaware Recycling Center in New Castle, Jones Crossroads Landfill in Georgetown and a brand new center located in the Newark area.

Mike Parkowski, chief of business and governmental services for the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, talks about the changes taking place at the Cheswold facility as the state works to consolidate the number of recyling centers available and add services to those that remain. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mike Parkowski, chief of business and governmental services for the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, talks about the changes taking place at the Cheswold facility as the state works to consolidate the number of recyling centers available and add services to those that remain. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The centers will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday to collect electronics, single stream recycling, cardboard, household batteries, used oil and oil filters and Styrofoam.

There will also be a household hazardous waste event once a week and a paper shredding/latex paint collection event once a month at each location.

“We’re moving in the direction where a center like this (Cheswold) we’re going to have a person here staffing it who can direct people where to put their things,” said Mr. Parkowski. “We’re going to expand services. We’re kind of remodeling.

“But we’re also going to keep all of the things that we already do have like single stream recycling, the batteries, the oil and all of those things.”

Besides the four main recycling facilities, the DSWA will also provide nine additional Drop-Off Centers located at DSWA facilities throughout the state.

Those centers will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and will collect single stream recycling, cardboard, household batteries and used oil and oil filters.

Adding more work for some customers

Mr. Parkowski said the DSWA realizes the closure of many of its Drop-Off recycling locations will upset some of its customers.

Current locations that are not located at DSWA facilities will eventually be removed. A sign will be posted at each center with an exact date prior to the site being removed.

“We do realize that for some people they’re going to have to travel a little bit further to get to these sites, but we are trying to expand the things we’re taking, too, to help strengthen the program,” he said.

Jerry Clifton, from Felton, is not pleased with the new changes but understands some of the issues that the DSWA has been going through.

“It’s very frustrating to go to the recycling centers and find junk and garbage in the recycle bins,” Mr. Clifton said. “My wife and I have always tried to do right because it is very important to recycle all we can.

“(There have been) many a times I’d pull cardboard out of the regular bins and put it in the corrugated bin. Perhaps people don’t know what corrugated means? The recycle bins were handy, being just a couple of miles away. Now we have to travel to Harrington or Sandtown, both locations are out of the way.”

Norine and Joe Donahue, of Magnolia, said they can understand Mr. Clifton’s frustrations.

They traveled to four different locations trying to locate recycling bins a couple of weeks ago.

“Well, to tell you the truth, we do not have a trash removal or recycling service,” Mrs. Donahue said. “When we moved to Magnolia, we were told that Kent County did not service our area because we lived on a ‘private’ road.

“We were forced to look for someone else so we got Waste Management, and what a big mistake that was. They never showed up most of the time. Even if we had someone, you still need a recycling center once in a while. It’s very frustrating.”

Illegal dumping a huge problem

Mr. Parkowski said in one illegal dumping instance that somebody left a 55-gallon barrel of oil at a Middletown Drop-Off Center and then someone else came along and backed into it, cracking the container and spilling oil all over the place.

He added that the people who are dumping household trash at centers actually outnumber the members of the public who have been recycling properly.

That is the kind of thing that has sparked the changes to the Drop-Off recycling sites.

“The idea is if we have manned sites it will eliminate the illegal dumping,” Mr. Parkowski said. “The centers will only be open during operating hours. Nobody can come in the midnight hour – when we think most of the dumping is happening – and it will make it a lot better.

“This site (Cheswold) in particular was a tremendously bad site for dumping and then we put the fence around it and we only opened during business hours and since then we’ve had no problem, so we do know it works.”

Mr. Clifton said he would have liked to have seen stiffer penalties imposed on violators before the decision was made to close the recycling centers.

“As for what to do, perhaps cameras would help, and a hefty fine,” he said. “Make it hurt, that’s the only thing people sometimes understand. Perhaps make the punishment a stroll down the roadway collecting trash.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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