Recycling center proposal sparks controversy

Alison Lucci

Portage County could be getting a new recycling facility and turning the existing recycling center back into a garbage transfer center.

The transfer center would accept materials from surrounding solid waste management districts, as well as private trash haulers. The refuse would be delivered by truck and hauled out of the county by train on the Wheeling Erie Line that runs near the facility.

William Steiner, director of the Portage County Waste Management district, and Portage County Commissioner Chuck Keiper presented the proposal to community members and the Kent Environmental Council Oct. 5 at the United Methodist Church in Kent.

Several Mogadore Road residents spoke up at the meeting about the plastic bottles and papers that blow from the recycling trucks and recycling center into their yards.

If the recycling center becomes a transfer center, they are worried that their street and yards will literally be trashed.

“I’m not against what they do,” said Bob Buehl, of Brimfield. “It’s just that they haven’t done the recycling thing right. And I’m just afraid if they do the garbage thing, it’s going to be a fiasco.”

Though he must collect the recyclables from his yard before mowing the grass, Buehl said he would rather live near a recycling center than a garbage transfer center. He’s concerned about the increased traffic the transfer center would cause, and he isn’t in favor of having all of Portage County’s trash stationed near his home.

“It has to be somewhere, but you need to put it in an industrial complex where there are other types of businesses with truck traffic,” Buehl said. “It’s just not a suitable thing for this area.”

A potential location has not been named for the proposed recycling facility, but Steiner did emphasize that it would be a technology-based facility unlike the present labor-intensive facility.

The equipment at the recycling center at 3588 Mogadore Road in Brimfield was purchased used about 15 years ago, and it’s already been rebuilt several times. Within the next five years, the equipment will reach the end of its service life, Steiner said.

The existing recycling center processes about 46 to 50 tons of material per day, but Steiner said the new automated equipment could enable the district to process three times that amount.

The new technology would allow the district to switch from its current dual-stream process to single-stream recycling, meaning residents will no longer have to sort their recyclables. Instead, an optical sorter will separate plastics, newspapers and other recyclables.

“It’s a much cleaner, much more efficient process,” Steiner said. “Instead of sorting recyclables at the curb, we would separate it out at the plant.”

The waste management industry is moving toward the single stream system, he said. Cities like Baltimore and Austin, Texas, already use the single stream approach. Green Bay, Wis., and Boston just switched to single-stream this summer.

Steiner also hopes the new facility would allow the district to accept plastics numbered three through seven, which cannot be recycled at the current facility. Yogurt cups, margarine bottles and whipped topping containers are a few examples of plastic packaging numbered three through seven.

“Our goal, of course, is to put as little into landfills as possible,” Steiner said.

By accepting more recyclable materials and using the single-stream process, county recycling rates should increase along with the district’s revenue. Right now, one-third of the district’s revenue comes from recycling.

Though the cost of the project is still being determined, Steiner emphasized that the transfer station and new recycling facility will be self-supporting once up and running. An engineering firm will begin a feasibility study next year to determine the efficiency of the proposal.

Steiner plans to contact the Brimfield Township Trustees to organize a community meeting so he can address residents’ concerns about the existing recycling facility and its future.

Contact public affairs reporter Alison Lucci at [email protected].