LAMBERTVILLE - The environmentally conscious seem to race each month in Lambertville, lining up outside two huge rolling bins to deposit their household recyclables for the month before the bins fill up.
Some make it each month, while others must haul their bags of cans and yogurt containers, cardboard and newspapers south of the border to Lucas County, where they impose on Ohio taxpayers to properly dispose of their recyclable materials.
But while a limited expansion in Monroe County's recycling program may save a few more people from going south, the county's limited program is likely to mean that the taxable imposition on Lucas County residents in terms of recycling will continue unabated.
Earlier this year, Monroe County added a second recycling drop site in Bedford Township, arranging with Allied Waste to have bins placed at the Bedford Senior Center on the first weekend of the month.
The new drop site joins six others across the county, all provided free-of-charge to the county by Allied Waste, the successor company to BFI, and the operator of the Vienna Junction landfill in Erie Township.
A spokesman for Allied Waste said the limited recycling program that the company operates in Monroe County is done as a public service and at a net loss for the company. She declined to provide details of those costs, however.
Vienna Junction is one of three landfills in Monroe County, all of which incurred an increase last year in the surcharge placed on trash hauled there. The Monroe County Board of Commissioners last year increased the "tipping fee" at the three landfills from 10 cents to 18 cents per cubic yard. The revenue from the fee, which averages about $40,000 a month, is outside the county's general fund budget and is dedicated for waste reduction and other programs, said county Solid Waste Coordinator Jamie Dean.
"It pays for our hazardous waste collections, for the educational programs that we provide, and for our solid waste management plan, which we're upgrading right now," Mrs. Dean said. The county has regular days throughout the year where it will properly dispose of things like paint, chemicals, electronics, and tires for local residents free-of-charge.
The increased fee last year has meant that the county has been able to expand those special collections, Mrs. Dean said. But things like curbside recycling pickup or fixed-sites are still only available in limited areas, such as the city of Monroe and Frenchtown Charter Township, which operate their own programs.
Municipal recycling programs have never really been money-makers on their own, but they do help to greatly reduce the trash stream flowing into area landfills. Last year, for example, Lucas County's system of 20 fixed-site recycling centers cost the much-larger county $685,600 to operate, but generated an offsetting income of $276,630 from the sale of the materials selected, Lucas County officials said.
Unlike their counterparts in most other areas of the county, residents in Monroe enjoy the relative luxury of curbside recycling. It's a benefit that city residents take advantage of, city manager Debbie Manns said.
"We have widespread participation in the program. It's very unlikely if you travel any of our streets on a trash day that you don't see at least three-quarters of our residents participating in placing recyclables at the curb," Mrs. Manns said.
Asked if there was any discussion of expanding the recycling program to include permanent drop-off sites such as those in neighboring Lucas County, Mrs. Dean said it was possible, but probably outside the county's budget right now.
"Maybe that's something we'll do in the future, I don't know. Right now, we have those drop-off days, and it isn't costing the county anything," Mrs. Dean said.