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Published: Friday, 9/5/2008

Wood County recycling effort cuts into landfill income

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - More recycling and less trash going into local landfills means people like Ken Rieman are doing their job.

It also means agencies like the Wood County Solid Waste District, which Mr. Rieman oversees, are facing tough financial times. The district relies on fees paid on waste deposited at the two landfills in the county for all of its income - and that income is way down.

"It's a schizophrenic existence," Mr. Rieman said.

"On any day we're doing a good job on one side and a bad job on the other side. It's a trade-off, but what we're trying to do is provide proper disposal options for people - some of that is landfill, some of that is reusing and recycling."

This summer, the Wood County commissioners cut $428,000 out of the solid waste district's $1.6 million budget, in part by eliminating the annual grants the district gives to local communities to promote and sustain recycling efforts.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword," said Judy Hagen, program coordinator for Perrysburg's Office of Litter Prevention and Recycling. "In one sense, it's sad there isn't money for the grants, but in the other sense, you've either increased recycling or reduced the amount of waste one way or another."

Perrysburg has received numerous grants from the solid waste district over the years to buy curbside containers for recyclables and signs for its parks that are made out of recycled materials.

This year, none of the 17 communities who applied for "buy recycled" grants will get a penny, nor will the seven agencies or municipalities that applied for capital grants receive any money for bigger-ticket items such as brush chippers.

The solid waste district also cut $60,000 from its equipment budget, $20,000 from its advertising and promotions budget, and suspended for the year a $105,500 payment to the Wood County Landfill for its operations.

It also will not make a $112,500 payment to a long-term fund created to finance the eventual closure of the county landfill.

Mr. Rieman said the cuts were necessary to get the district through the year with enough leftover to start 2009.

He said the district's income is down about 30 percent so far this year.

Trash haulers who deliver solid waste to Waste Management's Evergreen Landfill in Northwood or to the Wood County Landfill west of Bowling Green pay $2 per ton to the solid waste district for trash originating in Wood County or out of state. They pay $4 per ton for trash that comes from out of county.

Those fees - about 90 percent of which come from the much larger Evergreen Landfill - constitute the solid waste district's sole source of income.

Dan Raezer, landfill operations manager at Evergreen, said the landfill has experienced about a 10 percent yearly decline in tonnage since 2001, which he attributes largely to the fact that it's less expensive to haul trash to landfills in nearby Michigan.

This year, tonnage is down about 20 percent, and he said increased recycling and the overall economic decline are contributing factors. He said Waste Management is working with companies that are trying to eliminate their use of landfills altogether through recycling and other methods.

"That's not necessarily bad for us," Mr. Raezer said. "We're involved in recycling. We're involved in composting. We're not just a landfill."

The change in corporate trash philosophies does have a direct impact on the solid waste district, though. It's something Mr. Rieman said he will take into account while planning for 2009.

"I don't see a lot of difference at this point unless somebody tells me the economy is coming back," he said.

"We'll have to manage with what we've got and kind of maintain a status quo."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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