December 21, 2006

Christmas trees will be first
to feel brunt of yard-waste ban

Families that don't cut the Christmas season short are going to find the grinch still hanging around when they dismantle their holiday tree. He'll likely be savoring the highly controversial ban on dumping yard waste into the Cherry Island Marsh landfill.

"It (the ban) goes into effect on Jan. 1st, 2007. We'll start doing inspections on Jan. 2nd, 2007," James Short, environmental program manager for Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control, told a meeting of the Recycling Public Advisory Council.

Although he didn't refer to it, a department press statement issued just before the meeting specifically listed Christmas trees as contraband along with leaves, grass clippings and such.

A department spokesperson said it again this year will accept trees at Bellevue, Brandywine Creek and White Clay Creek State Parks in northern New Castle County through Jan. 15. Disposers will have to cart

Ban may be axed

State representative Wayne Smith told Delaforum that he will introduce legislation early in the coming session of the General Assembly to rescind the yard-waste ban.

The proposed measure would allow Delaware Solid Waste Authority to expand the Cherry Island Marsh landfill an additional six feet to 201 feet. That, Smith said, would provide the additional height to remain in operation until 2025 or 2026, the same as would happen if the ban goes into effect and the present height limit is kept.

"The matter of any future yard-waste ban would be left in the hands of the General Assembly. This will give time for [the natural resources department] to address the issues of cost and unanswered questions before any future yard waste ban were to be implemented, he said.

Smith said his bill will be cosponsored by representative Robert Gilligan and  senator Karen Peterson. "I have support from legislators around the state on this," he said.

the trees there and will be asked to ante up a 'donation' of $2 per tree. The traditional 12 days of Christmas end on Jan. 6.

Short said trash-collecting firms dumping at the Delaware Solid Waste Authority landfill after the ban goes into effect will be "charged a fee" for any truck in which yard waste makes up more than 10% of its trash volume. He didn't specify what the 'fee' will be, but said it is expected to be sufficient to induce them to reject such material from their customers.

The council at the meeting on Dec. 20:

Announced it will try again in the coming session of the General Assembly to get statewide mandatory recycling legislation enacted.

Heard a strong denouncement from one of its members of the major trash-collecting firms for shifting the burden of providing residents with a convenient way of complying with the ban to the waste authority.

The afternoon meeting attracted about 75 members of the public. Those who took advantage of an opportunity to speak were unanimous in denouncing the ban. One man, in particular, was vehement in complaining about the added cost it will impose on persons like himself living on moderate fixed incomes. A woman accused the waste authority of falsely claiming that the bags it provides those signing up for its recyclables collection program are biodegradable.

The meeting was held against the backdrop of a generally believed notion that legislators will make a strong bid to either overturn or delay imposition of the yard-waste ban soon after the Assembly convenes in January.

Short said proposed recycling legislation is now being drafted and will be presented to the council at its next meeting. He did not say what it will contain.

Pat Todd, who represents the League of Women Voters on the gubernatorial advisory panel, said it is obvious that omnibus recycling legislation does not stand much of a chance in Dover. "We've been trying since 2000," she said. Such a bill was passed by the Democrat-controlled state Senate during the last session, but died in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Todd suggested splitting any proposed measure into components. She strongly urged that one empower New Castle and Sussex County governments to establish trash-collection districts in which companies would bid for exclusive franchises. Kent County has such districts.

Council chairman B.J. Vinton noted at a previous consultant's report had noted that the present cost of trash collections in such district could be reduced by an amount that would easily offset the cost of separate collections of recyclable material.

Civic activist Wally Kramer, who represents the Delaware Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement on the council, cited announced costs as the basis of his criticism of trash-collecting firms. Waste Management and Allied Waste Services, which hold by far the largest shares of the market, "have told 50,000 to 60,000 people that they have to go to the solid waste authority" to handle their yard waste, he complained.

Although those companies would end up with considerably less trash to haul, they have offered customers rebates of only $4 a month for signing up for the waste authority program. To do so, householders would have to pay $9 a month -- $3 for yard waste on top of $6 to pick up recyclables. Contracting for the basic recyclables program is mandatory in order to get the optional yard-waste service. Trash haulers are charged a 'tipping fee', which is based on weight of the trash, to dump at the landfill.

Kramer said both companies provide more economical recycling service elsewhere in the country. Steve Masterson, who represents Waste Management on the council, said the cost of establishing a separate recycling collection service would require charging customers "considerably more" than the amount at which the waste authority is offering such service.

Kramer acknowledged that the waste authority's charges are in line with what a consultant previously estimated they would be, but added, "we have no data to show that the costs are reasonable."

Pasquale Canzano, the waste authority's chief operating officer, said that the agency is in the collection business only because it is required to be there as a last resort. "We want the private sector to step up to the plate," he said.

The natural resources department recently issued a list of haulers offering yard-waste collections. Tri-State Waste Solutions was the only waste-collection company with a significant share of the market on the list.

Canzano denied a rumor that out-of-state haulers are using the Cherry Island Marsh landfill. He said some companies doing business in Delaware license their trucks in Pennsylvania, where they also do business. One group of trucks frequenting the site, he said, belong to a Philadelphia-based firm which hauls construction waste away from the site and provides a reprocessed covering material for the land fill.

The waste authority, he said, is prohibited from accepting waste from out of state "and we have inspectors who make sure that doesn't happen."

He also said that the waste authority's 'igloos' recycling program is not a likely outlet for yard waste. Use of the sites, he explained, is donated by private owners, who specify conditions for doing so. "The containers we have for newspapers and cans get filled up quickly. We would have to have enormous containers for yard waste," he said.

Besides, Short said, "yard waste -- particularly grass -- goes sour very quickly."

Read previous Delaforum article: Delaying yard waste ban called 'dangerous' 


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