don't have to be an environmentalist to like recycling. You can
like it because it makes sense," said Ted Seigler, of
D.S.M. Environmental Services Inc., the Ascutney, Vt.-based firm
hired by the state Department of Natural Resources &
Environmental Control to conduct the feasibility and cost
approach the firm recommends is a countywide system of
collecting residential recyclables with bi-weekly curbside
pick-up. Coupled with not accepting mowed grass at the landfill
and requiring other lawn and yard waste, except leaves in
autumn, to be dropped off at collection points for composting,
that would achieve the 30% goal, which was set by an executive order
of former Governor Thomas Carper, the study report said.
present arrangement of trash collection by competing private
firms in the same neighborhood were replaced by one in which the
firms would be contracted with to exclusively serve specified
franchise areas, the net cost of adding recycling
collections would be covered by present rates, which average
about $19 a month in unincorporated areas of the county.
a lot less to send one truck down the street stopping at every
house, Seigler's associate, Natalie Starr, said. On the other
hand, simply requiring trash-collecting firms to offer curbside
pick-up of recyclables would result in their having to surcharge
between $1.80 and $2.60 a month, which is at the high point of
what people would be willing to pay if they were asked to
subscribe to that service voluntarily.
bi-weekly curbside pick-up of recyclables would actually reduce
costs for municipal systems, such as the ones in Wilmington and
Newark, by eliminating those materials from trash that has to be
dumped at the Cherry Island Marsh landfill at per-ton rates, the
that might sound, it was evident at the D.S.M. presentation on
Oct. 15 that talking about such an arrangement is considerably easier than
starters, Starr said, the firm
conducted the study against a backdrop of a seemingly innate
resistance to recycling. At a minimum, she said, "everybody
tells us that people don't want to pay for recycling in
Delaware." In comparable communities and areas, particularly
urban ones, all over the nation, separating recyclables from
other wastes is accepted as part of the household routine, she
said. On the other hand, the study found that subscribing to a
trash-collecting service and paying the stated rate is an almost
universal practice among the better than three-fourths of
the population who do not live where there is municipal trash
Delaforum how a mandatory recycling system would be financed,
Seigler replied that issue was "beyond the scope of what we were
asked to do." But,. he added that, speaking generally, Delaware
Solid Waste Authority could increase 'tipping' fees and the
collection firms would pass that on to customers. The 'tipping'
fee is the charge for dumping refuse at the landfill.
alternative would be to have an entity with taxing authority
impose a trash-service fee, which could be based on the amount
of trash generated by a household as measured by the size of the
trash container that is used. That would be somewhat comparable
to the sewer fee that New Castle County charges, which is pegged
to water consumption.
no single solution. We don't have an answer to that," he said.
"There are all sorts of political issues associated with that."
Wilkinson, chairman of the recycling council, was more specific.
"If we're going to get any kind of contracted system, New Castle
County [government] is going to have to do it," he said.
separate context, County Executive Tom Gordon recently told a
meeting of representatives of umbrella civic organizations that
he has no desire to have county government "get involved in that
business." As it happens, the recycling council plans to conduct
a series of presentations of the D.S.M. report to civic groups
around the county.
report includes an array of cost estimates, ranging upward to
about $5 a month for a subscription recyclables pick-up such as
the waste authority has begun on a pilot basis. Siegler said his
firm's experience with various programs around the nation finds
that up to 80% of households will agree to curbside recycling if
it is free; 40% are willing to pay an additional $1 a month for
the service; and 20% will go as high as $3 a month. Beyond that,
he said, forget it.
hardly surprising that most people are not anxious to pay extra
to throw away something if the alternative is to throw away the
same thing without paying extra, he said. What is not realized
is that they already are paying for not recycling. The rates
their trash collecting firm charges, for instance, are based on
'tipping' fees reflecting heavier weights when recyclables are
included with other dumped trash. Intangible costs include
paying for environmental effects, including in New Castle
County, the likelihood of having to deal with the effects of an
one of the most comprehensive of its type, the present system of
dropping off recyclables at 'igloos' in public locations is
relatively ineffective, Starr said. On-site questioning of users
found that there is a virtually solid cadre of patrons making
frequent trips to the sites. By and large they make up most of
the estimated 6% rate the study assigns to northern Delaware.
said that is actually well below the national average. He said
the profile his firm accepts has about 20% of recycling
enthusiasts in the general population with about the same
proportion "who are against recycling, no matter what."
evaluating costs, the report found that the area has ample
capacity to handle any reasonably likely expansion of recycling.
The waste authority has existing buildings large enough to
install processing equipment at its Pigeon Point location
between Wilmington and New Castle to process the material. Much
of the operational cost that would be involved could be met by
selling it. "There is a market for properly sorted and prepared
material," he said.
for being able to sell some compost, there is no market for the
grass which makes up by far the bulk of yard and lawn waste
generated in suburbia, which makes up about 38% of all
residential waste. D.S.M. recommends reeducating the mowing
public to simply leave the clippings lie. "From an environmental
point of view, that is a lot better than having to send a truck
down the road to pick it up," Starr said.
leaves are a different story, she added, noting that her trip to
Delaware to present the report was preceded by a pre-dawn chore
of clearing leaves from a storm sewer drain in front of her