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Washington County administrator: Recycling changes have worked

Gregory B. Murray says the financial books for recycling are starting to balance

November 29, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

Washington County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said changes in local recycling have increased local participation and leveled off the county’s solid-waste losses.

Based on four months of data, the county’s recycling program is starting to roughly pay for itself through permit fees, Murray said Tuesday.

In addition, recycling in the community is up, particularly through curbside collection, he said during a Washington County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Recycling was a big issue earlier in the year, when Allied Waste, a private hauler, started “opt-out” curbside collection in Washington County — residents were billed unless they called to cancel the service.

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County officials said this was a way to encourage more recycling without charging everyone for a countywide service, a new expense to which some constituents objected.

The county also eliminated unattended public recycling bins in various spots, which, officials said, were costing money and not generating any revenue to offset the associated expenses.

Now, county residents either pay for permits to drop off basic recyclables with the county or hire a private hauler. As a result, the financial books for recycling are starting to balance, Murray said Tuesday.

He said the county, based on four months of data extrapolated, is taking in about $67,000 a year in permit fees connected to recycling.

On the other side, the county is paying about $57,000 to have recyclables removed from the remaining bins at Forty West Landfill and a few other drop-off points, a significant decline in that expense, he said.

Previously, the county spent about $450,000 a year to maintain a larger number of public recycling bins, including stand-alone bins in Funkstown, Maugansville and other places.

Those bins filled up often. Sometimes, people discarded bulk items that didn’t belong.

The county has said that each “pull” of a recycling bin — the process of having a hauler empty it — costs the county about $166.

After Allied Waste started its controversial opt-out program in June, other private haulers followed suit.

Commissioner William B. McKinley said Tuesday that residents in almost every part of the county now have access to at least one private recycling collection service.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham thanked residents who were patient through the changes and are recycling.

Murray said the county has calculated that there have been 1,088 more customers recycling since July 1, an increase of nearly 19 percent.

The new estimate of recyclers, he said, is 6,874. That includes people using county bins through a permit or using a private curbside hauling service, as well as those getting recycling service through one of the county’s municipalities.

Previously, there were an estimated 5,786 customers, he said.

Murray said after his presentation that the county believes the four-month study period is representative enough to extrapolate into meaningful full-year estimates.

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