MOUNT VERNON — There are success stories in Knox County where it comes to recycling and composting efforts, and then there are, as Randy Canterbury can articulate, challenges yet to be overcome where it concerns reducing waste that goes into the landfill while reusing recyclable products.
Canterbury, coordinator of Knox County’s Recycling and Litter Prevention Program, said he’s generally pleased that all county residents have 15 recycling drop-off points to choose from. Emptied on Tuesdays and Fridays, the large, 8-yard containers are made available through the Delaware, Knox, Marion, Morrow (DKMM) Joint Solid Waste District. DKMM has been given a mandate by its four counties served to provide recycling access through drop-off stations to 90 percent of county residents.
“They’re spread out pretty decent,” he offered. “Just about every village has a recycling spot.”
From recycling stations in northern Knox County — Berlin, Pike, and Brown townships — to the villages of Fredericktown, Danville, Gambier, Martinsburg and Centerburg, the containers are in heavy use. Fredericktown offers 10 containers, the most among the villages, while the Apple Valley Property Owners Association has the most containers of any site, with 14 on Hasbrouck Circle.
These containers accept recyclables from gallon-size plastic milk and water jugs, plastic bottles to cardboard and aluminum and steel cans. Other items accepted include glass bottles and jars, cardboard, newspapers, magazines and office paper, clean pizza boxes, and cartons such as milk and orange juice cartons. DKMM works through a contract with Rumpke Waste and Recycling to provide the service.
“I think they do a pretty good job,” Canterbury said. “It’s about $32 to take a recycling container (to Columbus). Recycling is not free.” The items are taken to a recycling center on Columbus’ Marion Road.
But it is definitely worth the effort to reduce landfill waste, he said, given global ramifications that include a huge mass of discarded items like plastic bottles floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Recycling has the problem that there simply is little money in it right now, he said, with part of the problem being that most businesses don’t get much for the recyclables and don’t enjoy separating recyclables mixed together. The county’s drop-off containers are mixed, meaning all recyclable items are mixed together. China, which used to accept mixed recyclables from the United States — known as “single-stream recycling” — no longer does so “because it was sorted so poorly,” he noted. The Chinese who separate recyclable items were often children doing a difficult job.
There are minor inconveniences with recycling services as there are any service provided to the public, he said. Local recycling stations are not open Saturday, Sunday or Monday, so by Tuesday the containers are ready to burst at the seams at times. There is also the matter that many customers think there is a number identifying each type of recyclable product and that those items must be accepted. Canterbury said there are in fact numbers on each recyclable product; however, DKMM goes by what is on the list of recyclable items it accepts, not by a product number. So a milk or water jug is accepted — while a round piece of plastic that goes over the tops of cakes is not accepted. But stores like Kroger and Wal-Mart do their part to accept recyclables like the small plastic bags that go over newspapers when delivered. They leave barrels or boxes to collect them near their front entrances. And that is encouraging, he said.
In the city of Mount Vernon, Canterbury said curbside recycling is an accepted way of reducing landfill waste — but only for some people, a fact he would like to see changed. A city ordinance states that any waste hauler is required to provide recycling service to every resident — but only those homeowners who live in single family dwellings. Landlords who own rentals such as apartments, including single units or complexes, are not required to provide recycling service for tenants. Residents of Fairways Condominiums near Kroger have the same problem — no curbside recycling offered, which places them and others in the position of having to travel to one of the county’s 15 recycling drop-off stations if they want to reduce landfill waste.
This gap between homeowners who receive curbside recycling, and renters who don’t, “is one of the downfalls for residents of the city,” he said. And one that will hopefully one day be addressed, he added. Canterbury estimated that about half of the dwellable buildings in the city are for renters and thus not receiving recycling service.
Canterbury, who plans to retire in the not-too-distant future, said cities appear to handle how to pay for recycling differently. In Winston, North Carolina, for instance — where he plans to retire — trash and recycling service are free to residents. There is no charge; instead the services are paid through property taxes.
On the bright side, locally, there are entities such as Opportunity Knox on Coshocton Road which accepts hard-to-dispose-of items like Styrofoam, electronics (except TVs), and items such as air conditioners that hold Freon.
Where composting is concerned, the county Compost Facility at 7425 Thayer Road — open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday through November — accepts items including grass clippings, leaves, shrubs and brush, and tree limbs up to 10 inches in diameter. Community Roots on West Gambier Street, a collection of volunteer horticulturists dedicated to sustainable living, accepts compostable items like leaves and degradable food waste. Another option is to build one’s own 3-by-3-by 3-foot compost pile, which is large enough to hold in heat but small enough to circulate air through the center of the pile. Turning one’s pile regularly assists in the decomposition process.