PREBLE COUNTY — While there are many benefits to recycling for the average citizen, recycling the wrong items or doing so incorrectly can cost local governments thousands of dollars. Many people recycle correctly when possible, but there are those who take advantage of the free recycling system that Preble County offers to get rid of their trash illegally.
This could have serious consequences for the Preble County recycling program, according to county officials.
According to Preble County Solid Waste District Assistant Director Beth Wright, last year in Preble County residents recycled 5,347 tons of materials in the public drop off bins and in community curbside programs. However, the level of contamination (currently around 8-10 percent contaminated) found in the recycling bins has skyrocketed in the past couple of years from items which cannot be recycled, items such as: household trash, clothing, furniture, food waste, garden hoses, tires, mattresses, construction debris, paint and motor oil, electronics, animal feed bags, buckets, etc.
While the Preble County Solid Waste District has increased public education efforts to educate citizens on what can be recycled, issues with people continuing to place non-recyclable items in the bins and illegal dumping have persisted.
“Rumpke clearly labels its recycling bins on the side of each green bin with its list of acceptable items for recycling. The citizen just has to look at the side of the bin to check to see if the item is recyclable before depositing it in the bins. For example, only plastics labeled number one or two in the recycling symbol can be recycled (i.e. milk jugs, water bottles, laundry detergent bottles, etc.),” Wright said.
“You can’t recycle your plastic lawn chair or your child’s plastic toys just because it is made of plastic. Rumpke uses green for the color of its recycling containers and brown for the color of its trash containers. If you see a green bin, it is for recycling only.”
There is only one female county worker who is responsible for cleaning up trash and large items dumped in the county’s ten public drop-off recycling sites. Many of those sites contain multiple containers, which must be cleaned and monitored regularly for trash and non-recyclable materials.
“Illegal dumping has caused extra man hours and often requires heavy lifting of large items such as furniture, mattresses, and tires being dumped in the bins as well. This work is done once or twice per week as needed all year round including in the summer heat and the bitter cold of winter,” Wright said.
“The types of trash that have made their way into the bins in the past few months have included: paint cans (still full), office equipment, lawn chairs, car seats, kitchen food waste, piles of clothing, siding (metal & plastic), scrap wood, plastic storage tubs and trash cans, garden hoses, dirty diapers, and car parts — you name it and it has probably been found!”
For Preble County, the cost of providing free recycling is increasing. Each contaminated load costs the county $60 in dumping fees if the container is deemed to have too much trash in it. Rumpke requires that recyclables in the recycling bins be 99 percent uncontaminated.
So far for 2018, illegal dumping has cost Preble County over $1,000 in trash fees beyond the current recycling contract budget. This cost does not include the cost of installing security cameras and the gas and labor that has been expended in cleaning up the public recycling sites.
In 2018, two public recycling sites in the county were removed due to high levels of illegal dumping. Those areas were in Eldorado and Verona. Other sites may have to be removed in the future if levels of trash contamination do not improve.
“The recycling bins at National Trail Schools have shown a great deal of contamination just within the last few months, especially with kitchen trash as well as construction debris, furniture and paint being routinely found. These bins might have to be removed if the situation does not drastically improve. The Preble County Solid Waste District’s annual budget is negatively affected by having to pay for extra trash fees when they occur and as a result, other programs that the office runs may suffer for future funding,” Wright said.
“Not only the county, but the individual citizen can also pay a high price for causing this contamination if caught. Residents should be aware that the Ohio Revised Code states that an individual caught illegal dumping non-recyclables in a public recycling bin could face up to sixty days in jail and/or a $500 fine. Preble County is currently putting security cameras (capable of taking video and pictures in daytime or in the night) in selected sites to help curb this illegal activity.
“The Camden and Eaton public drop-off sites will be the first to have this video surveillance in place starting in November 2018. Other county recycling drop-off sites will likely soon follow. The license plate numbers and other identifying information of offenders will be given over to the Preble County Sheriff’s office for prosecution whenever possible. There are pending cases in the court system at this time.
“The bins are monitored weekly by a county employee. Sometimes offenders are actually caught in the process of putting unacceptable items in the bins which they must remove or be faced with having their case being turned over to local law enforcement for consideration.”
If a resident is unsure of how to recycle properly or if a material is indeed recyclable, they should consult Rumpke.com or call Rumpke directly. Rumpke discourages putting recyclables in plastic grocery bags and putting recyclables in non-recyclable animal feed bags. Rumpke recommends putting recyclables in bins loose or in a cardboard box or clear plastic bag which can be recycled. (These can be purchased at some home improvement stores.)
Citizens may also check the Preble County Solid Waste District’s website at www.preblecountyrecycles.com for a full list of acceptable recyclables and information on how to dispose of all solid waste in the county, including how to properly dispose of trash and other non-traditional recyclables at the Preble County Landfill.
The phone number for the Preble County Solid Waste District is 937-456-6880.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH