Monroe County recycling bins filling up

A sharp increase in the amount of recyclables being dumped at the Monroe Township Hall and other free sites in the county is prompting officials to re-examine sites needed to get rid of the materials.

Recycling leaders in Monroe County are exploring alternatives to traditional recycling methods due to area recycling centers being overwhelmed with plastics, tin, cardboard and other materials being dropped off.

There’s been a sharp increase in the amount of materials dropped off at all RecycleNOW sites in the county, said Dan Rock, Recycling and Green Community Program coordinator for the Monroe County Health Department. The increase is seen both in the collection bins and on the ground as people “carelessly leave a mess for someone else to clean up,” Rock said.

He took photos last week of materials people left behind at the sites that he had to clean up.

“It’s important to note I was able to fit everything they threw on the ground in the bins that were on site,” he said in an email. “People see a bag on the ground and then everyone follows suit. Have we not learned to clean up after ourselves? This is how programs like this get eliminated. This is simply unacceptable.”

The program was already extremely overburdened before Frenchtown Township canceled its curbside recycling program Dec. 1, he said.

“We’ve doubled and in some locations like Dundee, quadrupled the amount of bins delivered,” he said. “It hasn’t made a dent in the amount of material out there. Since 2014 alone, we’ve doubled the amount of tonnage in this program. There simply aren’t any more bins Republic Waste can bring, yet the amount of material continues to increase.”

Republic was the former waste hauler in Frenchtown. Stevens Disposal has since taken over collection of garbage and yard waste in the township.

Recycling isn’t the solution to this issue, Rock said.

“Changing our habits of over consumption and use of single use plastic is the only way to address this problem,” he said.

Dropoff sites at the Bedford and Monroe Township halls usually have a minimum of five or six 1- ton plus bins brought throughout the day to meet demand.

“Republic is already bringing all the bins they’re physically able to bring us for this program,” he said. “They’ve even fabricated a few extra bins to accommodate all the recyclable material people are dropping off.”

At Monroe Township, nearly a dozen bins had to be brought Wednesday to meet demand, Rock said. Supervisor Alan Barron said the number of bins has climbed since Frenchtown stopped collecting recyclables. The township has a population of more than 20,000 people, all of whom are looking for another place to toss their recyclables.

“A lot of those unloading are from Frenchtown,” Barron said. “We get a lot of calls from Frenchtown people. Ever since Frenchtown closed, it’s gotten a lot busier. I know the holidays had something to do with it.”

He said he’s received complaints about the bins being full, but it’s not the township’s fault. “We’re hosting it, but it’s not our recycling center. We need another place” to dispose of recyclables.

Frenchtown resident Ron Matthews drove five miles to drop off his recyclables last week at the Monroe Township center. He said he has no other options since Frenchtown shut down.

“I have no place to go,” Matthews said. “I recycle everything except greasy pizza boxes.”

Mark Farris, a City of Monroe resident, dropped off cardboard to place in the Monroe Township center.

“I’m glad they have it here. I hate to throw it away,” Farris said.

Theresa Lund lives in Monroe Township and has been coming to the township’s center for seven to eight years because it’s close and convenient.

“I wish we had it picked up at my house,” Lund said.

Rock and Barron noted the amount of contaminated materials visitors are leaving at the sites, including bowling balls, furniture, bed boards, lawn mower parts, pool components, electronics and other items. These items should not have been brought in the first place, Rock said.

“We cannot possibly recycle our way out of this waste problem,” he said. “There’s far too much material for any recycling program to absorb, and that’s what we’re seeing here and around the world. Recycling isn’t the solution to this issue and it never will be. It’s a problem that must be addressed at the source — the over-production of single-use plastic. Recycling is a failing Band- Aid to cover up over-production of plastic, excessive consumption and wasteful package design. That’s now becoming clear as it’s piling up here and everywhere.”

He said the county hopes to continue to offer the free drop-offs to county residents at the current locations.

“There was a massive increase in price for us to provide this program last year due to the collapse of the recyclables market after China said they didn’t want to be the world’s dumping ground,” he said. “As such, there are no plans to expand this program further beyond the current locations. Offering this program is increasingly challenging when waste haulers around our community continue to eliminate their recycling programs and more and more people use this free recycling drop off service.”

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