The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 30, 2012

Recycle program costly

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON —  The high cost of running the county’s recycling program, combined with a steep decline in the landfill tipping fees that fund the program, is putting the program in a catch 22.

Janice Switzer, manager of the county’s Department of Planning and Community Services, told commissioners Thursday that she can’t encourage residents to increase their recycling efforts because the money to dispose of the items is not there. As residents have stepped up recycling and reduced how much goes into the landfill, the per-ton tipping fees that fund the program also have fallen.

The county’s solid waste department is expected to have revenues of $365,000 this year and $355,000 in 2013. Expenditures this year are budgeted at $436,011 and slightly less next year.

Switzer said that, in order to cover the shortfall each year, the department has drawn on a cash balance that stood at $850,000 at the beginning of 2004. The balance is below $300,000.

It costs the department $190 every time a load of recycled items is pulled from one of the drop-off sites. Switzer said there are typically 10 of these “pulls” from Conneaut every week, plus four from Jefferson, three from Orwell and two from Saybrook.

Switzer said the program is costing $300,000 annually. “We’ve got to get those costs down,” said Switzer, who wants to maintain a cash balance of at least $200,000.

Curbside recycling programs in Ashtabula and Conneaut would provide some cost savings. A private/public processing facility for recycled items is another option for reducing the expense of hauling waste paper, metal and plastic items outside of the county for processing.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is working on a new solid waste plan for the county and could offer some assistance, as well. The plan was supposed to have been done four years ago, however.

In the meantime, Switzer said her department cannot encourage residents to step up their use of the drop-off sites.

“We would quickly eat through the money,” she told the board.