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Washington County to help promote private curbside-recycling program

County plans to eliminate unmanned recycling drop-off boxes

February 01, 2012|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

Washington County will help promote a private curbside-recycling program to be launched in June by Allied Waste, at which point the county’s unmanned recycling drop-off bins will be removed, the Washington County Board of Commissioners decided Tuesday.

The five-member commissioners voted 4-0 to support Allied Waste’s program. Commissioner John F. Barr did not attend the portion of the meeting after lunch, when recycling was discussed.

County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said the increased use of private curbside recycling will allow the county to eliminate its unmanned recycling drop-off boxes.

The recycling drop-off boxes at the Forty West Landfill and the county’s four manned landfill transfer centers will remain, but the county will begin charging a fee for use of those boxes, Murray said.

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Currently, there is no charge for county residents to use the drop-off boxes, and their cost — about $350,000 a year — comes from landfill revenue.

With landfill revenue declining, funding is no longer viable, and the recycling drop boxes will have to be paid for with general tax dollars if they are not eliminated or made self-supporting, Murray said.

Murray said he expects the fee for a vehicle sticker allowing residents to use the remaining drop-boxes to be about $35 a year.

“That takes the cost off of the landfill, it takes the cost off of the tax dollar, and the recycling program is then self-sufficient based on those that want to use it, which has always been a goal of the commissioners — not to mandate fees, not to increase things on the tax dollar, but to provide a curbside recycling service for those that want it without requiring you to take it — so this does about all that,” Murray said.

Allied Waste’s recycling service will provide biweekly, single-stream recycling pickup to all homes in certain areas of the county that do not “opt out” of the program, said Don Groseclose, Chesapeake area municipal manager for Allied Waste.

Residents will be notified of the program and reminded of the opportunity to opt out several times before the program begins, he said.

Allied Waste will manage the program and bill participating households directly, with no capital or operating costs to the county, Groseclose said.

The county will act as a “sponsor” by helping Allied Waste run an educational campaign for the service, the commissioners agreed.

Groseclose said he envisioned that campaign including presentations to students in schools, as well as promotion of the service on the county website and in mailings from the county.

Rate not set

Murray said Allied Waste had indicated it could provide the service for $5 per month per household, but Groseclose said he was not ready to commit to a rate because the final figure would depend on further market research.

The rate will be finalized within the next few weeks, before notices are sent out to residents, he said

Preliminary pilot areas for the program are north of Hagerstown, Jefferson Boulevard, Robinwood, Funkstown, Boonsboro, the area around Keedysville and Virginia Avenue. The company is interested in expanding to additional areas, but the time frame for doing so will depend on the success of the program in the pilot areas, Groseclose said.

Allied Waste already offers curbside recycling as an add-on option for its trash collection customers, but homes in target areas will not need to have trash collection to participate in curbside recycling, he said.

The program will create additional jobs at Allied Waste, including allowing the company to potentially rehire employees it has had to lay off, Groseclose said.

‘Preferential treatment?’

The commissioners’ decision to help promote Allied Waste’s program came despite a request earlier in the meeting from competitor Apple Valley Waste that other companies be given the same opportunity.

“I’m concerned about what would happen to all of my hard work and my customer base should this program go into effect,” Apple Valley Waste General Manager J.P. Phillips told the commissioners during the citizen participation portion of the meeting.

Phillips said his company has been offering curbside recycling as an option for its trash collection customers since 2010.

Commissioners Ruth Anne Callaham initially expressed reservations about endorsing one private company.

“I’m a strong (recycling) advocate, and I think this is a fantastic offer that you’ve made,” Callaham said. “My concern comes with a government entity giving any sort of a hint of preferential treatment.”

For example, Callaham said she did not know if the county could put Allied Waste’s name on the county website without listing all other for-profit companies that offer curbside recycling pickup in the county.

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