Across Delaware, public recycling services are significantly improving in some areas, but people may have to drive farther to get there.
The Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) is currently in the process of removing about two dozen drop-off locations scattered throughout the state, including sites near Selbyville Town Hall (closing March 8) and Fresh Pond, north of Bethany Beach (which closed in early February).
“We’re closing all the sites that aren’t at DSWA facilities,” explained DSWA’s Michael Parkowski. “Basically, there’s going to be 13 [staffed] sites statewide, when it’s all said and done. Ironically, Sussex County has the most sites because, while it’s the lowest population, it has the largest area.”
The change means fewer locations, but the remaining centers will be better run, in an effort to keep things convenient to people who already self-haul their own waste and recycling but also to make Delaware’s waste management more streamlined and cost-effective.
Recycling has changed over the past few years in Delaware. For residents today, recycling is as easy as taking out the regular trash. But the public’s main option used to be the 180 recycling drop-off sites throughout Delaware.
In 2010, the Delaware State Legislature passed a universal recycling law, requiring trash haulers to also provide curbside pickup for all households they served.
Now residents can toss all recyclables in one can (single-stream recycling) for pick-up. Until this winter, Delaware still had 40 drop-offs on both DSWA land and other properties, such as state parks, municipal land and shopping centers. The unique benefit was in the area special collections, such as household batteries and motor oil, but there was no staff on-site to provide daily oversight.
Therefore, many sites, including Bethany’s Fresh Pond drop-off, had particular issues with people dumping non-recyclables, such as mattresses and televisions. But, even worse, people were dumping bags of garbage in the recycling containers. They contaminate the recyclables (newspaper can’t be salvaged once it’s been rubbed down with moldy banana peels) and ruin the whole batch.
“It has become a free dumping ground for people that want to get rid of trash,” Parkowski said of the facilities. “The saddest part is, at first, it was people dumping stuff outside of the cans. [But now] they’re just putting trash inside the cans. Once that happens, we end up throwing out a lot of material that could be recycled, because it’s contaminated.”
DSWA will monitor and tidy up the sites for a few weeks after closing, but Parkowski said dumping usually ends after the bins are removed.
“We can’t just keep basically putting trash into the system. It doesn’t help anybody, and it doesn’t help the trash,” Parkowski said.
The changes also resulted from the demand for some services, such as household hazardous waste collection, electronics recycling and paper shredding.
Some people will be frustrated to lose their local centers and the 24/7 access, he acknowledged.
“We’ll still have six sites in Sussex County,” Parkowski said. “I know people will be upset — especially people so used to Fresh Pond, but the reality is, the Fresh Pond site… we’re not getting good material from it because people are abusing it.”
But when people arrive at the DSWA sites, a staff member will always be present to educate and guide them through the sorting process. It’s essential that people learn and use the sites appropriately, he said.
The remaining sites have already seen an uptick in visitors, including the Omar Collection Station (33086 Burton Farm Road, Frankford), the site nearest to Bethany Beach and Selbyville.
“Yesterday, I got a call from the Omar site. … A lot more people were coming, and they said they used to use Fresh Pond,” Parkowski said.
It was a learning experience for some people.
“This lady came and started unloading trash,” telling an employee that she always dropped garbage at the recycling center! “In the end, he taught her what should and shouldn’t be put in cans. He separated it all out.”
Now, “We made it so nobody would have to drive more than 20 miles from a center,” Parkowski said.
The remaining DSWA-owned facilities will only accept recycling during operating hours, Monday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Collection stations include:
• Omar (33086 Burton Farm Road, Frankford)
• Long Neck (28963 Mount Joy Road, Millsboro)
• Ellendale (13870 South Old State Road, Ellendale)
• Bridgeville (16539 Polk Road, Bridgeville)
• Cheswold (54 Fork Branch Road, Dover)
Landfills are located at:
• Jones Crossroads Landfill (28560 Landfill Lane, Georgetown)
• Sandtown Landfill (1107 Willow Grove Rd., Route 10, Felton)
• Cherry Island Landfill (1706 East 12th Street, Wilmington)
Transfer stations can be found at:
• Route 5 (29997 John P. Healy Drive, Harbeson)
• Milford Transfer (1170 S. DuPont Boulevard, Milford)
• Pine Tree Corners (276 Pine Tree Road, Townsend)
Other locations include:
• Delaware Recycling Center (1101 Lambsons Lane, New Castle)
• (new location coming soon, in Newark)
Recycling at DSWA sites will include single-stream recycling, as well as electronics, cardboard, household batteries, used oil and oil filters, and Styrofoam (varies by location).
All DSWA sites will also host weekly special household hazardous waste collections, plus monthly paper-shredding events. (Some sites already host such events.)
The special recycling services are free, although DSWA has fees for garbage and other waste.
Single-stream recycling will continue to permit collection of newspapers/brown paper bags, magazines/catalogs, telephone/soft-cover books, cardboard, junk mail/envelopes (all types), paper, paperboard (cereal/tissue boxes), glass bottles/jars, aseptic containers/cartons, metal cans (tin/steel/aluminum) and plastics #1, #2, #4, #5 and #7.
People should not recycle Styrofoam or plastic shopping bags in their single-stream recycling. Styrofoam should be taken to an appropriate DSWA location. Plastic shopping bags should be returned to collection bins at stores that use them.
Currently, the Jones Crossroads Landfill accepts household hazardous waste and electronic goods every Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (paper shredding also accepted on the first Monday of each month). Accepted materials include aerosol cans, mercury thermometers, fluorescent light bulbs, cleaning fluid, herbicides, pool chemicals, auto fuels, paints/thinners, small compressed gas tanks, computers equipment, televisions, VCRs and more (explosives, ammunition and fireworks are often accepted at special events only).
Special collection events are also scheduled throughout the year (May 6 at Nylon Capital Shopping Center, Seaford; June 24 at Milford Transfer Station; Sept. 9 at Long Neck United Methodist Church, Millsboro; and Sept. 30 at Hocker’s Super Center, Clarksville). Events run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for household hazardous waste, electronic goods and document shredding.
More information, including locations and event schedules, can be found online at www.dswa.com. People can also contact the DSWA Citizens’ Response Line at 1-800-404-7080.