Re­cy­cling rates won’t change un­til mar­ket changes

Con­tam­i­na­tion level falls in lat­est test

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CH­ERYL MATTIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— It’s mid­way through the year, and the global re­cy­cling mar­ket re­mains in the dol­drums.

This means that com­mer­cial trash haulers won’t see

ELK­TON

any re­duc­tion in the county’s $22.50 per ton re­cy­cling fee in the near fu­ture.

“Un­less a mir­a­cle hap­pens, I don’t see any im­prove­ment in the next year or two,” Pete Bie­niek, county chief of solid waste man­age­ment, said Tues­day. “The bot­tom fell out quickly within a cou­ple of months at the end of last year.”

That forced the land­fill to raise re­cy­cling rates from $4 per ton to $22.50 per ton, and also to im­ple­ment changes to re­duce a con­tam­i­na­tion rate of 21 per­cent re­ported due to mix­ing of trash with re­cy­clables in plas­tic bags.

Changes also were im­ple­mented at the Home­owner’s Con­ve­nience Cen­ter in the Cen­tral Land­fill in Jan­uary that stopped al­low­ing dis­posal of tele­vi­sions, com­puter mon­i­tors, small ap­pli­ances, ra­dios and cam­eras — also due to a bad mar­ket.

In Jan­uary, Bie­niek called it the “per­fect storm” com­bin­ing con­tam­i­na­tion rates with a crash of the com­mod- ity mar­ket and China not ac­cept­ing as many re­cy­clables as it once did. With a drop in gas and oil prices, it be­comes cheaper to make new plas­tic than it is to re­cy­cle old plas­tic.

The good news, ac­cord­ing to Bie­niek, is that the county has re­duced its con­tam­i­na­tion rate from 21 per­cent down to 5 per­cent, which is ac­tu­ally un­der the 8 per­cent ac­cept­able level. But that by it­self isn’t enough to re­duce tip­ping fees.

County Re­cy­cling Man­ager Tanya Adams said the in­crease is mainly due to trans­porta­tion costs, which went up dra­mat­i­cally from the re­cy­cling com­pa­nies.

“It still costs us $4 per ton to process the re­cy­clables here, but we now have to pay an ad­di­tional $18 per ton to trans­port it,” she said.

Bie­niek said Ce­cil County rene­go­ti­ated its con­tract with its ex­ist­ing re­cy­cling firm in Delaware and has about 30 months re­main­ing on the con­tract, but other com­pa­nies would charge even more for trans­porta­tion be­cause they are fur­ther away.

“The en­tire re­cy­cling process is run­ning a deficit,” Bie­niek said.

Mar­kets for metal, vinyl and plas­tic have all dropped, he ex­plained. But re­cy­cling is man­dated, so ju­ris­dic­tions just can’t stop do­ing it.

Frank Vari, a Ch­e­sa­peake City coun­cil­man who has long been an ad­vo­cate of re­cy­cling, is dis­ap­pointed, but un­der­stands that the com­modi­ties mar­ket has to change first for things to im­prove.

“We’re at least able to help pay our town’s tip­ping fees through money raised by two 5K walk/runs each year,” he said.

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