Picked Up from the Delaware House of representatives newsletter
Shortcomings of Recycling Law Must be Addressed
By State Rep. Nick Manolakos
Signed into law last June, Delaware’s “universal recycling” law has been the subject ofanger and criticism by many citizens.
Chief among these complaints is the legislation’s mandate that waste-haulers provide
every single-family home with “a wheeled cart for the purpose of storage and collection of recyclables.” In most cases, these carts are large 96-gallon units.
For younger families with homes including large yards and/or garages, moving and storing these containers presents little problem. However, for the owners of smaller residences, these units have become a ubiquitous eyesore. A brief video clip posted on YouTube, entitled “State Law Trashes Mendenhall Village,” illustrates the problem. Unable to place them anywhere else, these ugly containers are shown crowding the sidewalks of the townhome community like blue and gold sentinels.
Additionally, elderly residents often find the large containers too large to move safely.
Although citizens are not compelled to recycle, they still must pay for the service and waste-haulers are required to provide them with recycling containers. Once those
containers have been delivered, most of the citizens I have spoken with said they have been unable to get their waste-haulers to take them back.
Discovering how much you are paying for curbside recycling may be difficult. In fact,
the recycling law specifically prohibits waste-haulers from listing the expense of
recycling as a separate line item on their customers’ bills. A proposed amendment to
the original law – allowing for the delineation of recycling’s cost – and a separate bill (House Bill 29) introduced earlier this year to accomplish the same goal, were both defeated.
Remarking on the failure of HB 29, the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Dan Short, said:
“Nearly every consumer bill I receive is itemized; yet making this simple change in this instance seems to be taboo. We’re mandating that people pay for this new law, but we’re purposefully concealing that cost. The people who favor doing this seem to argue that it’s acceptable to keep the public in the dark when your cause is well-intentioned. That’s a slippery slope none of us should be comfortable heading down.”
What is a little unsettling is that full impact of the universal recycling law has yet to be completely felt or understood. The law is being implemented in three stages, with single-stream recycling required to be supplied to single-family homes by Sept. 15th; to apartments and condominiums by Jan. 1, 2013; and to commercial businesses by Jan. 1, 2014.
Largely ignored during the debate is that new law contains aggressive goals for
recycling and diverting material from landfills. In just three-and-a-half years (Jan. 1, 2015), Delaware citizens and businesses are expected to divert 72-percent of all solid waste away from landfills. On Jan. 1, 2020, that benchmark rises to 85-percent. If these interim diversion goals are not achieved, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Recycling Public Advisory Council (a new group established under the recycling law) will recommend “any additional mechanism necessary” to reduce the amount of waste heading to landfills. Under the law, these recommendations could include banning specific types of waste from landfills; and/or implementing “Pay As You Throw” and “Extended Producer Responsibility” laws.
These recommendations, including draft legislation to implement them, are to be
submitted to the General Assembly no later than Nov. 1, 2014.
Before the universal recycling law results in any new legislation, I believe we need to fix what’s wrong with the current statute. Waste-haulers should be required to take back any recycling container when requested to do so by a customer. In townhome
communities and other venues where individual recycling containers are impractical, the law should allow for them to be replaced by centrally-located communal containers.
Lastly, customers should be allowed to know how much curbside recycling costs. They
are paying for this mandated service and that information should not be intentionally
obscured by the actions of a paternalistic government.
There are few people in our state that would argue against the concept of recycling.
Diverting waste from landfills and conserving the use of energy and raw resources by
increasing the use of post-consumer material is desirable and provides societal
benefits. However, supporters of our current recycling law need to concede that it is an imperfect instrument and that efforts to fine-tune it are not synonymous with attempts to destroy it.
The universal recycling law is here to stay. We need to make it work better for the sake of everyone it touches.