on local recycling roles
Management, in its national advertising, cloaks itself in a deep
shade of green and heavily promotes its claim to being the
largest recycler of residential trash.
In New Castle
County, however, the firm's operating subsidiary, whose
approximately 40% share of the business is by far the most,
refers prospective recycling customers to Delaware Solid Waste
Authority. It does offer to knock $2 off its $22-a-month fee for
once-a-week trash collection for those who sign up for the
authority's $6-a-month recycling service.
spokesperson was unable to give the exact number of number of
customers in the county. She said it is "somewhere between
11,000 and 12,000 [and] growing every day." There are about
100,000 households in the county.
Waste Management is
not out of step with the rest of the business. It's three
largest competitors do the same thing. Independent Disposal
Services' discount is $3 a month.
offers to pick up recyclables, charging $3 a month more than its
$20.25 fee for conventional trash collection.
Together, the five
companies account for slightly over three-quarters of the
residential business in the county.
On the other side
of the ledger, a household which separates recyclables from
other trash reduces the volume of conventional waste it puts out
for commercial haulers by at least a third, according to Wally
Kramer, environmental affairs chairman for the Council of Civic
Organizations of Brandywine Hundred. Haulers pay what is known
as a tipping fee, calculated by weight, to dispose of the
material they gather at the waste authority's Cherry Island
Marsh landfill. It is currently $48 a ton.
Kramer said that
the resale value of most recyclable material is at or near
record high as a result of the escalation of the cost of energy
and heavy demand, particularly from Asia.
The combination of
reduced disposal cost and
profitable sale of the collected recyclables ought to make
economic sense, he maintained. The social and ecological
benefits have long been established, he added.
Delaware, he said,
is practically unique among states in not requiring separation
of recyclables from other household trash in at least their
urban areas. In some places, dividing trash into as many
as four categories is the norm. However, single-stream disposal
-- that is combing paper, metal and plastic items and the same
container -- is now technologically feasible.
Efforts to get the
legislature to enact a law to put the state into what Kramer and
other advocates contend is the recycling mainstream have been
unsuccessful in several General Assembly sessions. Even the most
recent version of proposed legislation, which called for a
voluntary program, ran into strong opposition, particularly from
lawmakers representing Kent and Sussex Counties.
"I really don't
know how you get there from here," said Kramer, who also is a
member of the governor's Recycling Public Advisory Committee. It
is all but certain that another attempt will be made when a new
state administration and Assembly take office in January.
There was a glimmer
of hope when the Assembly early this year rejected an attempt to
overturn the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental
Control ban on disposing of yard waste at the landfill. But
Kramer and other environmental advocates say the real test of
the ban's effectiveness is soon to come when autumn leaves start
currently has temporarily closed its yard waste disposal sites
to allow mulching to catch up with an accumulated backlog of
collecting firms have all established yard-waste pick-up
services for additional fees above their conventional-trash
rates. The waste authority also offers that service to those who
sign up for its recyclables collection service.
All except Econhaul
also have tacked on 'fuel surcharges' to cover the increased
cost of gasoline and diesel fuel. It is not clear why that cost
of doing business is not simply folded into their rates. "It's
just the way we do it," an employee of one firm said, adding
that it is comparable to the practice of gasoline service
stations stating prices with nine-tenths of a cent added
to the per-gallon amounts.
Most of the
collection firms offer new customers only once-a-week service.
Existing customers generally have been allowed to retain
for quoted prospective customers are: Waste Management, $66 or
$59.40 for households eligible for a senior-citizen discount;
Tri-State Waste Solutions, $69.75 and $59.25, respectively;
Independent Disposal Services, $70.55 and $66.05, respectively;
Allied Waste Services, $58.50, with no senior discount; and
Econohaul, $64.50 and $60.75, respectively.
establishment of trash districts, where a single company is
awarded a franchise to serve all the houses, would result in
economies that would reduce the cost of service and also could
be a vehicle for requiring recyclables pick-up as part of the
contract. While firms currently will offer discounts to entire
neighborhoods where residents agree to go with one company, a
district system administered by a government entity would be the
only practical way to implement such a system.
The firms, he said,
would 'save' $105 a year per customer by participating in such a
elsewhere in the nation, he acknowledged that it is not likely
to get off the ground here. The larger firms would dominate a
competitive-bid arrangement and allocating the franchises on the
basis of existing market share would be politically and possibly
legally prohibitive. Moreover, he said, country government would
be the most likely entity to establish and run such a system but
is not likely to be amenable to take on the administrative role
it would require.