County recycling to get extreme makeover

A new way of recycling is coming to Lycoming County.

Commissioners will begin accepting bids Thursday for equipment to be installed at the county recycling center in Montgomery that will change the way residents dispose of their recyclable materials.

The equipment will allow materials to be sent to the center combined and sorted on site. The so-called single-stream recycling process will allow residents to place together all materials that could be picked up by their regular trash hauler.

Commissioners hope that the plan will increase recycling rates due to the convenience while saving space at the landfill. In addition, the county’s curbside recycling service slowly will be phased out, saving additional money, according to commissioners.

“We knew we were going this way eventually,” Commissioner Jeff Wheeland said. “Ultimately, the commissioners’ goal is to get away from curbside pickup and allow private companies to do it.”

Wheeland said Lycoming County was getting pressure from some trash haulers in Snyder and Union counties that already accept single-stream materials.

While curbside pickup of recyclable material was mandated by the state in 1988 for communities with a population of more than 5,000, Wheeland said it’s now time to revisit that policy.

“Curbside (pickup) is a big expense,” he said. “Those trucks are very, very expensive. You wear one out about every 36 months.”

And that doesn’t include the cost to pay staff to drive them, he said.

“We lose money on it. It costs the taxpayers money,” Wheeland said.

He said his goal is to make the process more user-friendly for the consumer.

Jason Yorks, county recycling coordinator, said the present recycling facility would undergo a budgeted $3 million transformation to make the switch to single stream.

In other counties where single stream recycling is in use, Yorks said trash haulers charge their customers about $5 a month for the service and provide a 95-gallon tote container for the materials that are picked up once or twice a month.

Yorks said it’s up to the individual haulers here to decide if they want to participate, but doing so would provide added convenience to their customers. Haulers also would get a stipend for the recyclable materials that are dropped off at the county facility, according to Yorks.

“They do garbage disposal every day and they know the routes,” he said of the local haulers.

“We’re going to be able to accept a greater range of products with single stream,” he added.

For example, Yorks said the recycling facility would be able to accept new items such as aluminum foil and pie pans and Nos. 1 through 7 plastic material, which are used as various food containers.

Yorks said he hopes the convenience of single-stream recycling will result in a higher participation rate and less recyclable materials in the landfill.

“There’s no reason recyclables should be in the garbage,” he said.

He said the transition will take a couple of years to make sure enough local waste haulers are committed to the program. In the meantime, community drop-off recycling sites and curbside pickups still will be in use.