Meet it or Beat it

AN ATTEMPT BY ONE Ohio solid waste district to increase its own recycling rate, as well as the state's, has been attracting some criticism from within the industry. An addition to the Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Joint Solid Waste Management District's (STW) draft of proposed rules would allow the district's landfills to refuse waste from counties whose recycling rates for industrial and residential/commercial solid waste don't meet or exceed its own rates.

“We want to bring greater awareness to the issue of recycling, and we want to be setting an example for other communities in the state,” says David Held, the district's executive director. He explains that the rule was drafted to address low recycling rates and the district's “serious litter problem.”

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asks that districts meet one of two criteria: either provide access to recycling in the form of curbside recycling or one drop-off site per 5,000 residents, or achieve a 25 percent average recycling rate for industrial and residential/commercial solid waste. Many Ohio solid waste districts, including STW with an 8 percent recycling rate for 2004, have failed to meet those requirements. In response, Held says the county is implementing recycling programs. But he says that if his district is working to increase its recycling rate, so should others that are sending their waste to STW landfills.

Also at issue is the large amount of litter created by trucks hauling in waste from other districts. According to Held, of the 3.5 million tons of solid waste dropped off at STW's three active landfills in 2005, 850,000 tons came from within the district, 2 million tons came from other Ohio counties and 500,000 was brought in from out of state. He says that despite four litter crews, loose trash remains an issue.

Some critics, however, disagree with the district's approach to its problems. “The rule is impractical at best and potentially legally invalid,” says David Biderman, general counsel for the National Solid Waste Management Association. He argues that Ohio's recycling data is not made available on a timely basis and is not “sufficiently comprehensive,” and adds that prohibiting out-of-district waste is outside the scope of Ohio law. He adds that NSWMA “hopes to continue working with the district to address community concerns rather than have this deteriorate into litigation.”

Jane Vignos, Stark County Commissioner and one of three members on the landfill rules committee, also has some reservations. “The intent was to increase capacity and encourage recycling. I thought it was a good rule until we heard the other side,” says Vignos, who has not decided how she will vote. Like others, she is concerned that the landfills will begin accepting more out-of-state waste to compensate for any tipping fees that might be lost from other districts. “I would rather accept Ohio waste than out-of-state waste,” she says. She also wants assurance that the rule wouldn't violate any laws or contracts currently in place.

Held dismisses worries about having to increase out-of-state waste disposal, despite the fact that tipping fees from other Ohio districts account for about 73 percent of the district's revenue. He argues that the district has $9 million in reserves and could increase tipping fees, if necessary.

The draft package of rules also includes siting measures to address landfill noise, odor and traffic. The Ohio EPA recently granted the district an extension on approving the rules, which now must be done by November.