New rule on yard waste in effect

DNREC to gradually tighten enforcement of landfill ban

By JEFF MONTGOMERY, The News Journal
Posted Thursday, January 24, 2008

Northern Delaware will take a second whack starting today at pruning yard waste from the trash dumped at Cherry Island Landfill, under a program that state officials say offers residents a wider range of disposal choices.
Success would make the remaining capacity of Cherry Island available for other municipal waste through 2026, supporters of the ban argue, postponing the need to reopen debate over a new landfill site or another Cherry Island expansion .

The change affects only waste sent to Cherry Island, although the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has urged residents statewide to avoid sending leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste to landfills.

In practice, that means the ban affects only municipalities and customers of waste companies that haul trash to the landfill in east Wilmington. Trash from areas south of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal is supposed to go to the Sandtown Landfill in Kent County, by way of the Pine Tree Corners Transfer Station near Townsend.
"I like to be an optimist. This might work out," said Wallace Kremer, conservation chairman for the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred. "I have gotten some feedback from a few people that they don't seem to have gotten any information from their haulers, and I'm concerned about that."

DNREC Secretary John A. Hughes said his agency hopes that residents will start separating yard waste immediately, but he also said that officials will gradually tighten enforcement over a period of months, giving haulers and residents time to adapt.

"Our enforcement will be directed at DSWA, not the public," Hughes said. "We have emphasized that enforcement will be phased in."

DNREC is considering steps that could help drive down the cost of mulching lawnmowers for homeowners in an effort to reduce the amount of bagged grass clippings and leaves produced by households, Hughes added.
State officials attempted a similar ban last year, but temporarily shelved it after lawmakers demanded more options and more information for residents. An attempt to permanently kill the program failed to clear a House committee last week.

Rather than policing individual households, DNREC will enforce the ban through the Delaware Solid Waste Authority. DSWA managers will be required to make sure waste haulers comply with the ban. Haulers, in turn, will manage customer compliance.

Sen. Dori A. Connor, R-Penn Acres, said New Castle County lawmakers' telephones "lit up" in recent days with residents' questions about the new rule.

Bruce Georgov, president of Independent Disposal Services, said his company will offer a mix-and-match range of services that include regular trash pickups, yard waste curbside pickups and single-bin collections of mixed household recyclables.

"There will be an increase for the additional service. It will be very competitive," Georgov said. "The bottom line is, no matter what DNREC says, recycling costs money. They will see an increase in fees, but they'll receive an additional service."

Options for residents include:
•A $1-per-bag collection service that DSWA has developed separately for those who cannot or choose not to make other arrangements.
•Recycling yard waste at home by using a mulching lawn mower or composting, or by taking material to DNREC's free drop-off sites in Bear and Pike Creek or sites that take yard waste for a charge, including DSWA and commercial mulch and composting businesses.
•Arranging for the regular household trash hauler, a landscaper or another company to remove the yard waste, generally for a fee.
•Developing a neighborhood or community yard waste mulching and composting site.

A spokesman for the hauling industry told lawmakers last week that businesses are prepared for the ban.
DSWA consultants estimated last year that yard waste accounts for about 50,000 tons, or 9 percent, of the material sent annually to Cherry Island.

More than 20 states already bar yard waste from their landfills.

Rich Von Stetten, recycling program manager for DSWA, said the authority has sold 8,200 of the $1 stickers that residents can attach to their own lawn and leaf bags.

"That's pretty remarkable for this time of year," Von Stetten said.

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