How solid waste district will meet recycling requirements is debated

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 22

Toledo will have to wait at least one more year for citywide drop-off recycling, officials said yesterday.

But some Lucas County municipalities are saying they don’t want to have to pay for recycling to make up for Toledo’s lack of action.

The debate surrounds the way the Lucas County solid waste district will meet state requirements that 25 per cent of the district’s waste must be recycled by 2000. In March, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency told the district it was violating those rules because Toledo had not expanded its recycling program as planned.

A solid waste district report presented at the county commissioners’ meeting yesterday outlines Toledo’s options for contributing to the 25 per cent goal and how much each of those options would cost the rest of the county.

Toledo runs a small pilot curbside program, covering almost 20,000 households. It recycles 2,100 tons a year.

But with that small contribution, the county is still about 21,000 tons a year short of the state recycling requirement.

The county’s plan in 1995 assumed Toledo would take the curbside program citywide at a projected cost of nearly $2 million.

The city never did, “strictly because of budgetary constraints,” said Steven Hamilton, city solid waste commissioner.

Last year, the city division of solid waste proposed replacing the curbside program with a network of 30 drop-off points. Mr. Hamilton said the drop-off points could generate more than 10,000 tons of recyclables, almost the same total tonnage that he said a curbside program could bring in.

But the district’s report issued yesterday said that a full-service curbside program would bring in just under 18,000 tons a year and estimated a drop-off system would bring in only 8,000 to 10,000 tons.

Under the program the district report labels the most likely for Toledo, the city would recycle 8,250 tons of material annually, which is 6,150 tons more than it does now, at an annual cost of $495,000.

But that tonnage still wouldn’t meet Ohio EPA requirements. The district would have to recycle 13,245 additional tons of ma terial at an added cost of $400,000 a year.

And, county households and apartment complexes would have to chip in about $650,000 in fees for recycling service.

If implemented, the plan would give the solid waste district a $542,000 shortfall over the next five years.

“We aren’t sure where that financing will come from,” John Minear, solid waste district coordinator, said.

He said the district hopes the city would pick up the costs, because the recycling shortfall would be partially responsible for the district’s excess cost.

But if Toledo refuses to pay, he said, the next alternative would be to raise the fees that all Lucas County municipalities pay when they dump garbage at district landfills. That possibility has some officials worried.

“The last option is increasing fees, but we need to keep that as an opening,” commissioner Mark Pietrykowski said. “We’re going to have to look at a lot of different options.”

Sylvania Mayor Craig Stough said he hopes Toledo will pay its fair share.

“We expect Sylvania to be indemnified from any additional costs,” he said.

Mr. Minear said a 60-cent increase in the current $2-a-ton dump fee would cover the shortfall. Mr. Pietrykowski said Toledo should follow the lead of other Lucas County municipalities and commit to recycling.

“The smaller communities have already made the decision to go ahead with recycling programs. They’ve made the commitment,” he said. “Toledo needs to take that step.”

Along with word from the Ohio EPA, Toledo is awaiting the results of a study by the Corporation for Effective Government, a nonprofit group that is examining the division of solid waste for inefficiencies. Its report, which will include recommendations on the recycling issue, will be concluded by March, Mr. Hamilton said.