‘Abuse,’ costs lead to closure of town recycling sites
It’s getting harder to recycle materials in Warren County.
Glade Township shut down its drop-off recycling service effective at the end of July.
And Pleasant Township plans to end its service in August.
The townships’ programs were part of a county system that had been in place for decades.
“The township established a drop-off center back in the early 1990s,” said County Planning Director Dan Glotz, who is also the county’s recycling coordinator. “It has been a part of the County Program since the center was established. The county provided the roll-off containers and the township provided the location.”
“We started the (recycling) program right about the time we approved the solid waste plan,” Glotz said.
That plan was approved in 1990.
The first county recycling coordinator was John Swanson. Glotz said Swanson was an excellent choice for the post and took all the aspects of it, especially the educational ones, seriously.
“He would visit the schools,” Glotz said. “The kids called him Johnny Trash Can.”
“He got the centers up and running,” he said.
Around the same time, the City of Warren was mandated to start a curbside recycling pickup program.
When Swanson moved, the Warren County Conservation District took over the recycling program. “It was a good fit,” Glotz said.
Again, the person in charge there left the county and the program shifted again, this time to the Solid Waste Authority. Office Administrator Darlene Peterson became the coordinator.
She was another good fit for the program. “There’s a lot of reporting that goes along with a program like this,” Glotz said.
When she retired, the authority didn’t fill her position.
“I ended up with the recycling program in 2014,” Glotz said. Like the coordinators since Swanson, Glotz has made sure he handles the mandated reporting, but is not a full-time coordinator.
“I do the reporting that is required by the state,” he said. “Because of all my other responsibilities, I don’t have the time to do all the promotional aspects.”
The county, and thereby Glotz, does run three electronic and household hazardous waste recycling events each year.
“I am trying to arrange for tire recycling,” he said.
But, he can’t make municipalities hold on to deficit programs in the face of abuse.
Glade Township Supervisor Joe Scully said the board of supervisors had no choice.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of abuse of it,” he said. “People were using the containers to dispose of their “home garbage — things that aren’t supposed to be put in there.”
He said he opened a bag that was in the container once. “It was garbage,” he said.
Scully had a plan for that garbage and dug through it, looking for some identification.
“I made up my mind, I was going to personally deliver it,” he said. “I didn’t find an address.”
Having bags of garbage returned is on the gentle side of what could happen to people who abuse the service. “You can be fined,” Glotz said.
Residents are required by state law “to have garbage pickup,” he said. For those who can’t justify paying for a weekly service, there are programs offered locally where residents can buy labeled bags and the hauler will remove them when they are put out.
In addition to the wrong materials being put in the containers, the service was not being used exclusively by township residents, as intended.
“It’s being used by everybody in the county,” Scully said.
Sometimes, the bins would fill up before they were removed and replaced and people would continue to drop off materials that shouldn’t have been there.
Scully said township employees sometimes had to spend work time moving bags of garbage out of the way of the bins instead of doing the jobs they were hired to do.
“When we started it, we thought it was a good idea,” Scully said. But, the service was eventually not worth the abuse. “We make no profit on it. It’s costing the township. It’s our taxpayers’ money that pays for the takeaways.”
It was not a happy decision.
“You try to provide a service that is beneficial to the community and the environment,” Glotz said. “We teach our kids that this is the right thing to do.”
“I’m sorry it had to be this way,” Scully said. “Abuse is one of the downfalls of something like this.”
There are still several municipalities in the county that offer recycling services. Because of its population, the City of Warren is mandated to offer curbside pickup.