Ashland’s dropoff recycling program is entering its sixth year but irresponsible dumping of garbage at collection sites could threaten its future.
According to Ashland and Rumpke Recycling officials, the placement of unacceptable materials — mostly household trash and large appliances — at the city’s three dropoff locations frequently creates an unsightly mess, is expensive to clean up and could pose serious safety risks to workers and the public.
Ashland launched a single stream dropoff program in conjunction with Rumpke Recycling in 2007. Under the program, recyclable materials, including plastic bottles and jugs, paper, cardboard, aluminum and steel cans, are placed by residents in large containers at three Ashland locations. They are under the blue 12th Street bridge, at Ashland Community and Technical College’s lower Oakview Road parking lot and at 39th Street in John C. Oliverio Park.
These containers are emptied by Rumpke, whom the city pays for the service, and the collected materials are taken to its Hanging Rock, Ohio, center before being transfered to its Columbus facility where they are sorted, packaged and then distributed to buyers.
Unacceptable items are a huge problem, agreed Jim Wheeler, Ashland’s solid waste coordinator. “The trash problem has been getting worse and worse, but the recycling program is growing in terms of the tonnage collected. The trash being collected in these bins is threatening the whole program,” he said.
Each location’s bins are emptied three times weekly by Rumpke, said Wheeler. But each day the city must send workers to clean up the sites and remove items that are not supposed to be there, he said.
In addition to sending staff to haul off and sweep up the sites, Wheeler himself must go out to the sites each day to clean them. “It is a constant effort,” he said.
In addition, the problem has large ramifications for Rumpke.
Rumpke spokesman Jonathan Kissell said a fire last spring, which destroyed a recycling center in Cincinnati, was most likely caused by a combustible material that should not have been there.
Kissell said the fire has spurred Rumpke to find ways to reach out to residents to educate them about what is acceptable and unacceptable at dropoff locations. Items can be dangerous to workers, cause problems with Rumpke’s equipment or are simply not recyclable because of a lack of a market for the material.
Non-acceptable items make up only a small fraction of the materials Rumpke processes at its Columbus facility, from drop off, curbside and commercial recycling programs across Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, said Kissell. “The better we can make the material coming in, the better the end result is coming out, and also that allows us to look and find ways to introduce potentially new items to be able to recycle,” he added.
For example, Rumpke recently began working with the Carton Council to begin recycling a variety of cartons. Cartons are accepted at all Ashland dropoff locations, said Kissell. There are two types of cartons, self-stable cartons and those that need to be refrigerated. Both are accepted, and should be flattened out before placed in the recycling bin.
Cardboard boxes and paperboard boxes should also be flattened, and are acceptable paper products along with office papers, folders, newspapers, including inserts, junk mail with envelopes and magazines, catalogs and telephone books.
Plastic bottles and caps
Another recent change is the acceptability of plastic bottles with their caps. Bottle caps must be attached to plastic bottles, said Kissell. Rumpke recommends crushing the bottle and reattaching the cap so it takes up less space.
What plastics are acceptable are one of the trickiest recyclables for consumers to master, according to Kissell. Rumpke currently only accepts plastic bottles and jugs “where the openings are smaller than the base.”
Plastics that are not jugs or bottles are not acceptable, these include “clam shell containers,” tub-like containers for foods like yogurt and butter substitute, and others plastic items like toys or tubing, including hoses. VHS tapes are also not acceptable.
Plastic bags are a huge no-no, said Kissell. They cause havoc for Rumpke’s trucks and conveyor belts and are best recycled at grocer dropoff locations like those at Kroger stores.
Although steel, tin and aluminum cans are acceptable materials, large scrap metal items are not. Metal coat hangers are also not acceptable. These should be taken to other recyclers like Mansbach Metal, said Kissell.
Other items that can not be placed in recycling bins include: medical sharps or syringes, styrofoam, and glass. Glass is accepted at the Hanging Rock drop off facility, according to Rumpke officials.
Wood, furniture, fencing, and old appliances are absolutely not accepted, along with any chemicals, and household trash. Each Ashland dropoff location has signs showing and listing acceptable materials. Individuals caught dumping non-acceptable items can be fined a minimum of $250.
“Public education is a lot of it,” said Wheeler. “There are a lot of people that throw stuff in there, but they think it is recyclable and they are not. It is a good program. It provides a good service to the citizens. People like to recycle, they feel good when they recycle.”
According to Marion Russell, Ashland’s director of Public Works, Rumpke collects an average of 40 tons per month of recycleable material from Ashland’s bins after the large trash is removed. In 2012, the City of Ashland’s diverted 500 tons of recyclable materials from local landfills to Rumpke Recycling.
Ashland, Russell said, pays for Rumpke’s services, and when combined with the increasing cost of hauling off the non-acceptable materials, “it won’t take much more to be at the breaking point.”
Russell would rather see the program grow than end. “If more people were serious about recycling, and participated in it, we could get to the point where the cost we pay to Rumpke would go way, way down,” said Russell.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.