April 29, 2004

Without showing much enthusiasm, the Recycling Public Advisory Council endorsed pending state legislation that would set up a statewide recycling program. It acted after the Delaware Solid Waste Authority branded the measure "impractical and untimely."

Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the gubernatorial council, agreed with other members that the bill, sponsored by Senator David McBride and Representative Joseph Miro, is a relatively weak first start toward having Delaware join other jurisdictions around the nation which mandate recycling. However, he said, it is something the council should support "until we see something better or until we see this going down."

"There could be other legislation. This is just an opening ... in order to get the program going and working," said Pat Todd, the council member tracking the legislation.

If enacted, it would set progressive annual goals to divert 30% of residential solid waste from landfills by July 1, 2007. The waste authority would have responsibility for setting the course to attain the goals.

In a letter to McBride, N.C. Vasuki, the authority's chief executive officer, said legislation should await the results of and recommendations coming out of a study the authority is currently conducting under terms of an agreement with the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control and the recycling council.

Pat Canzano, the authority's chief operating officer and a member of the council, revealed at a council meeting on Apr. 28 that the study will not be completed by the early-May deadline set in the agreement. A consultant has yet to be hired to work on one phase of it and another awaits the outcome of field trips to out-of-state recycling facilities.

He said he was unable to project a new target date for completion of the study, adding that he did not want to 'release' results of the two of its seven phases which have been completed "because the figures are likely to change and that (making it public) would only confuse people."

Canzano said Vasuki's objections centered on the proposed legislation being "an unfunded mandate" and lacking provisions for enforcing compliance with whatever project the authority devises. "Those are real issues; they are issues that need to be addressed," he said. "You have to know to some extent how you are going to get there (achieve the goals)."

In his letter Vasuki called the study part of "a deliberative approach" to instituting a mandatory curbside recycling program. "Setting an unrealistic requirement without analysis, a mechanism for satisfying the requirement and no funding (financing) is a meaningless exercise," he wrote.

While noting that the McBride-Miro bill requires involvement of the advisory council and the natural resources department in the process of establishing the program, the waste authority "alone would bear the responsibility of putting the necessary programs in place and making them work," Vasuki wrote.

The waste authority is an autonomous self-supporting public agency.

Canzano told the council that Vasuki's letter was not meant to imply that the waste authority does not support mandatory recycling nor that it believes a 30% diversion rate is not attainable. Those are objectives "we wholeheartedly support," he said.

Noting that McBride did not seek the authority's views before introducing the bill, Canzano called for a "cooperative effort to develop proposed legislation for an effective statewide [recycling program]."

"Ultimately we have to decide what gets the job done in the way we want it done and [does it] in a cost-effective way," he said.

Wilkinson said that the term 'mandatory' is likely to prove a major problem. "When we talk about mandating, we're scaring people," he said. There is a big difference, he added, between mandating establishment of a system in which residents would be encouraged and educated to participate and requiring people to separate recyclables from other trash for collection.

"There are some who want to do it, other who'll never be willing to do it and others who won't do it if the guy next door doesn't have to do it," Canzano said.

It was disclosed at the meeting that some trash collection firms have agreed to provide rebates to customers who participate in the waste authority's voluntary recyclables collection program. For $6 a month, it will collect the material. The program is presently underway in Brandywine Hundred and the Newark area and is expected to be further expanded.

Amounts of the rebates vary among the companies, but are in the range of $1 to 10% of the monthly cost of their service. Collection firms pay to dump trash at the waste authority's landfills based on weight and the rebates reflect the reduced cost resulting from diversion of the recyclables from what they pick up and haul there.

2004. All rights reserved.

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