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Recycling program not cost-efficient for borough

Officials say that only one-third of the borough's residents actually participate in the recycling effort.

Officials say that only one-third of the borough's residents actually participate in the recycling effort.

August 21, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Despite it being the law, only about one-third of the residents of the Borough of Chambersburg recycle.

The borough implemented its recycling program in 1990, after the state ordered all municipalities with more than 10,000 residents to recycle. Since then, the borough's Department of Public Works has seen participation levels rise and fall.

It has been several years since the borough assigned a "trash patrol" to find out how many people were recycling. But at the time, only 30 percent of residents were recycling, said Bob Wagner, Public Works director.

He doesn't expect that's changed much.

The borough currently collects 600 tons of aluminum and clear and colored glass annually, Wagner said.

The $140,000 program, however, is not cost-efficient for the borough, he said.

"There is no market for any of the products. The price of glass is way down, and aluminum is down to 27 cents from 64 cents," Wagner said. "When you add in the cost of the labor to pick it up monthly, it's not cost-effective at all."

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It costs the borough $260 a ton to recycle, but only $74 a ton to bring trash to the landfill, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said.

"It's the right thing to do, but it's the expensive right thing to do," Oyer said.

When Wagner presented an overview of the recycling program to the Borough Council last week, Councilman John Redding Jr. asked why the borough couldn't add another drop-off site like it has on Loudon Street for newspapers.

"That's only effective if there is a way of policing it and making sure trash isn't dropped off," Wagner said.

He said the borough is very specific about what it will recycle - for example, the aluminum cannot also have tin or steel mixed in.

He said the materials with the fewest impurities get the best prices from Chambersburg Waste Paper, where the collected recyclables are taken, but that also drives up the cost of labor to separate it.

"It's a catch-22. The more labor-intensive, the more money you get, but the more you have to pay to have it done," Wagner said.

The recycling program is subsidized by the $8.50 monthly sanitation charge borough residents pay for trash removal, street sweeping and bulk pickup, he said. The borough also receives about $20,000 annually in state performance grants.

The borough does the minimum required under law, and Wagner doesn't anticipate that changing.

"Until it is profitable to recycle, it's not going to change," he said.

Residential recycling occurs during the first two weeks of the month. The borough is divided into 10 voting precincts, and recycling collection begins on the Monday of the first full week of the month beginning with Ward 1, Precinct 1, he said.

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