Single-stream recycling nears

Pick up, or drop off?

That’s the question Lycoming County residents will have with their recyclable materials as more private waste haulers are getting into the business of picking up comingled – or “single-stream” – recyclable materials from their customers.

While the county’s 27 recycling drop off sites will continue to be available for those who want to

deliver glass, aluminum and other recyclables, Lycoming County wants to get away from providing curbside recycling pickup, according to Commissioner Jeff C. Wheeland.

In addition, single-stream recycling – which allows all accepted recyclable materials to be stored and processed together – is being implemented in Lycoming County to save space in the landfill and increase the county’s recycling participation rate, Wheeland said.

“My thought is, we’re getting away from curbside recycling,” he said. “The amount of money we spend on curbside recycling is a waste of taxpayer money.”

He said tens of thousands of dollars a year are spent purchasing, maintaining and fueling county-owned recycling trucks and paying employees to operate them.

Lycoming County collected 487 tons of recyclable materials from curbsides in 2012, according to Jason Yorks, county recycling coordinator.

“When you factor in 2012’s estimated average price per ton, the revenue from this material is estimated (at) $28,800 while our expenses were $88,000 not including depreciation,” he said. “This gave us an estimated loss of greater than $59,000. These numbers reflect the collection of curbside in our 13 municipality’s routes, not just our three mandated communities” of Williamsport, South Williamsport and Loyalsock.

Wheeland said that government shouldn’t be doing a job that business could do instead.

“There’s got to be a better way, and the private industry can do it. We will pay the haulers to do it, not the government,” he said.

Several local and regional waste haulers now are providing pick up service of single-stream recyclable materials.

With the process, additional materials may be accepted that were not before, including Nos. 1 through 7 plastic material and aluminum foil and pie pans.

Traditional curbside recycling provided by the county only collects aluminum cans, glass and steel and tin cans.

Today, county commissioners will open bids for single-stream recycling equipment that will be installed at the landfill. Yorks said about $4.25 million has been budgeted for the equipment.

At that amount, it will take about six years for the county to break even, he said.

But Wheeland said a price can’t be placed on extending the longevity of the landfill that serves six counties and more than 325,000 people. The two newest waste fields that have opened at the landfill have come with a combined cost of about $16 million, he said.

More recycling means more room available for garbage in the landfill, Wheeland added.

And if waste haulers drop off less garbage and bring in more recyclables, they can make more money. Haulers are charged by the ton for unloading waste and will be paid by the county for recyclable materials.

Wheeland said waste haulers that offer single-stream recycling services most likely will be very proactive with their customers to encourage them to include all eligible materials in their routine pick up.

“It’s money in their pocket if they can get them to do a better job of recycling,” he said.

Yorks said the county’s recycling participation rate is about 29 percent.

“The goal for DEP has always been 35 (percent), and we hope we can even achieve higher than that” with single-stream recycling, he said.

Wheeland and Yorks said the county’s efforts to introduce single-stream recycling are not meant to force private waste haulers to do something they don’t want to do.

“It’s going to work. Every time private enterprise is tried, it works,” Wheeland said.