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Recycling paying off in Pa.

October 13, 1999

RecyclerBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




ST. THOMAS, Pa. - A multi-colored blizzard of shredded newsprint and phone books spewed from a tub grinder behind Lowell Peckman's tractor Wednesday, falling like snow on the backs of his dairy cows.

The cows are used to it by now. Peckman uses a ton of old newsprint a day to provide bedding for the 120 cows at his St. Thomas Township farm. Each week, Boy Scout troops and others drop off newspapers, and the farm has been accepting old phone books since last year as part of Franklin County's phone book recycling program.

This year the program collected more than 17 tons of phone books, bringing the total to 103 tons since it began in 1992. In addition to saving landfill space, Elliott said it conserves other resources, such as the 17 trees and 390 gallons of oil its takes to produce a ton of paper.

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"We get three uses out of it," Peckman's brother, Gerald, said. After it's been used as bedding for cows, it is spread on fields to help contain moisture in the ground and prevent erosion. Finally it breaks down to become part of the soil.

"Flies can't work in it," Lowell Peckman said, explaining that they can't lay eggs in the paper. That also means fewer udder infections in the herd.

"The county is indebted to the Peckmans for their interest in this program," County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said. The phone books can be disposed of at no cost, and it keeps tons of paper from ending up in the two landfills in the county, thus extending their useful lifespans, he said.

October is Recycling Month in Franklin County, and the phone book program is just one initiative that has increased recycling from 10 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 1998. When Pennsylvania instituted some mandatory recycling programs 10 years ago, the target was to reach 25 percent by 2000.

"We think with the 1999 figure we'll be there," Clayton said. Recycling had been as high as 18 percent for all solid waste in 1996, but that figure fell to 11 percent the following year when the Army closed down the recycling operation at Letterkenny Army Depot.

County residents and businesses recycle 30 tons of paper, glass, steel, aluminum and other materials each day, or about 11,000 tons a year, according to county figures. Clayton said that figure may be low because not all the private and commercial recycling is reported and there's no way to estimate how many farms like the Peckmans' use old newspapers.

The 132,000 people in the county produce about 187 tons of trash per day that ends up in landfills, or 2.83 pounds per person, according to Clayton. That's down from 3.54 pounds a day in 1990. Over the decade, Clayton said recycling and other waste reduction efforts have meant each person produces about 300 pounds less of trash each year.

In 1990 the state mandated recycling in Chambersburg and Waynesboro and Greene and Guilford Townships. Now curbside recycling is available in 13 of the county's 22 municipalities and drop-off programs in four others, Clayton said. There are also six private recycling centers serving the area.

In April the county began a household hazardous waste program allowing residents to have old paints, pesticides, motor oil and other items picked up at their homes for free. So far almost 16 tons of hazardous wastes have been picked up from more than 300 homes.

Budgeted at $47,500 and funded by fees paid to the county for every ton of trash deposited at county landfills, the program was extended by the commissioners Tuesday through the end of the year.

"It's keeping things out of the landfills that could get into the water system and cause health concerns down the road," Commissioner Cheryl Plummer said.

Clayton said a survey of the program's users showed that 31 percent had stored some of the hazardous wastes for 11 or more years before getting rid of them.

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