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Recycling paying off in Franklin Co.

March 06, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The amount of trash Franklin County residents put in landfills has decreased by 10,000 tons a year since municipal recycling programs began a decade ago, according to the County Planning Office.

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While the county's population grew from 121,000 in 1990 to an estimated 128,000 last year, the tonnage going into the landfills fell from 79,568 to 69,757. During the same period, the amount of waste recycled increased from 8,612 tons to 13,179, according to Senior Planner Sherri Clayton.

The recycled tonnage is 18.9 percent of the municipal solid waste, up from 15.7 percent in 1998, Clayton said. "The recycling figures may increase a few points as we get the final figures," said Clayton, who is awaiting complete numbers from a few smaller municipalities.

"There are some numbers we don't capture," Clayton said. For example, the tonnage of newsprint used by farmers for livestock bedding is unknown and the amount of private recycling is hard to gauge, she said.

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Chambersburg Waste Paper Co. may be the biggest recycler in the county, handling 100,000 tons a year of cardboard, newsprint and other paper from half a dozen states, according to company Controller Jim Dupler.

Some of that is generated within Franklin County, but Dupler said the said the company primarily works with paper brokers. The company grades, sorts and bales the paper for delivery to mills.

"The majority of our metals the public brings in," Dupler said. That came to about 400,000 pounds of aluminum, copper and other metals last year, he said.

Chambersburg Waste paper used to accept plastic and glass, but dropped them because of marketing and storage problems, Dupler said.

The trash generated per capita has decreased from 1,320 pounds a year to 1,080 pounds in the last decade, she said. "I think consumers as a whole have concentrated on waste reduction," partly by buying products with less packaging, Clayton said.

A 1990 law mandated counties take an active role in solid waste planning and mandated recycling in many municipalities, Clayton said. Chambersburg, Waynesboro, and Greene and Guilford townships were among the first with mandatory recycling.

Thirteen of the county's 22 municipalities have curbside recycling and others have drop-off programs. Shippensburg with 4,847 tons and Washington Township with 3,917 tons were the top recyclers, according to county figures.

Recycling seesawed during the 1990s. The rate jumped from 7.8 percent in 1995 to 17.9 percent in 1996, but dropped to 11 percent in 1997, when a recycling facility at Letterkenny Army Depot closed, Clayton said.

She said the county built up the numbers with public education and new curbside recycling programs. Hamilton Township began curbside recycling in 1998, followed by St. Thomas Township last year.

The county's Solid Waste Advisory Committee began work on a new 10-year plan last month and is looking at ways to promote recycling, Planning Director Phil Tarquino said.

"There's some concern that there are products that are recyclable but hard to get rid of," Tarquino said. Those include electronics, tires, yard waste and household appliances. "Another concern is outdoor burning of waste, and that will be considered in the new plan," he said.

The 1990 plan required all municipal waste to be taken to private landfills in the county in Upton and Scotland. Clayton said landfills outside the county could be included in the new plan.

"It's a competitive process the facilities have to go through to become part of the plan," she said. When the new plan is completed later this year, the county must demonstrate to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that "we can ensure disposal capacity for the next 10 years," she said.

Clayton said the Upton landfill has an estimated life span of about 12 years. The Scotland landfill has about 26 years of capacity left and both accept trash from outside the county.

Clayton said about 25 percent of the solid waste in Pennsylvania is recycled, a goal set in the 1990 law. "It's harder to achieve that rate in rural areas where curbside recycling is not economically viable," she said.

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