Steve Masterson, district manager for
Waste Management of Delaware, told Delaforum that there soon
will be no alternative to doing so. The dispute over whether the
Cherry Island Marsh landfill should be expanded is likely to
force the issue.
His company, he said, is more than
willing to take on residential side of a mandatory program or
even a voluntary one if it had enough participants for it to be
The problem hereabouts, he said, is
"you can't get any one organization to agree to anything."
As a result, the state and
particularly populous New Castle County is one of a very few and
still dwindling number of locales where residential recycling is
not yet a routinely accepted fact of life. Elsewhere,
householders are daily sorting wastes into varying numbers of
categories for regular curbside pick-up. In some northern New
Jersey communities, separate containers requirements are drawn
to fine lines between clear and colored glass.
The anomaly of disposing of
everything from garbage to waste paper, plastic bottles and
grass clippings in a single unit is surprising given almost
unanimous public opinion that recycling is a good thing and that
practical alternatives are clearly unacceptable. Steadily
mounting opposition to expansion of the Cherry Island Marsh
landfill at a time when most residential recycling comes down to
having to personally cart the stuff to one of the sites where
'igloos' are provided to receive it.
Masterson draws a sharp distinction
between residential recycling and handling material from other
sources. The industrial and commercial community in the area is
all but totally committed to it and Waste Management, through a
subsidiary, does a thriving business processing and disposing of
While literally everything is
theoretically recyclable, the economics of the resale business
determine that somewhere between a quarter and a third of
material that gets thrown away around the house and buried in
the landfill would constitute a viable residential program, he
The equation which determines whether
it can be collected separately and resold, "comes down to weight
versus volume," he said. Scrap steel and other metals,
particularly aluminum, top the list. of acceptables. The sheer
amount of what is thrown away makes paper the most common
commodity that is recycled, although the price that mills are
willing to pay for it fluctuates sharply.
That is not to say that the field is
static. "They are finding all sorts of ways to use recyclables
-- things that were never thought of before," Masterson said.
He said that the landfill dispute
could easily be the catalyst that spurs the General Assembly or
county government to mandate recycling. If that does not happen
sooner than later, the state and county will literally run out
of disposal space. Delaware will then have to join larger and
more populous areas and haul wastes to distant disposal sites.
The cost involved in that will be considerably more than what
would be required for an effective recycling program.
Waste Management, Masterson said, has
long advocated setting up arrangements with civic associations
whereby residents of a given area agree to engage a single trash
hauler in return for a discounted rate.. He said that would be
economically feasible from the company's point of view in an
area with 500 customers. "We've even offered to do it with 90%
participation," he said.
That standing offer applies to
general trash, but that kind of arrangement would work equally
well with recyclables, he said.
The company has no dispute with the
Delaware Solid Waste Authority, he said. "Cherry Island is a
well-run landfill," he said. "Their people are very
He declined specific comment on the
authority's current effort to promote a voluntary recycling
program with residents paying a monthly fee to participate. If
nothing else, he did say, that will provide a measure of how
willing Delawareans are to back up their professed support of
When all is said and done, "people
don't want to change," he said.
"Delaware residents have had it very
good for a very long time. They [can] put everything out on the
curb and it gets hauled away. ... But I think many are beginning
to realize that it's not always going to be that easy."