South Bethany, Lions to benefit from recycling

The Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) is sweeping through the state’s southern coastal region, adding more and more towns to their voluntary municipal recycling programs. On Friday, South Bethany became one of the newest towns to be added to the list.

“America is one of the leading countries, if not the leading country, in promoting recycling,” said Councilman John Fields. “It started off years ago, with the establishment of drop-off points, but now, most major cities in the country have curbside recycling. It’s moving quickly into the smaller towns of America.”

South Bethany had publicized a program through DSWA that allows all of the state’s property owners to participate in a weekly curbside recycling service, but they had taken time to study the idea of town-wide municipal recycling rather than jumping right on the bandwagon. And since they began studying the issue, improvements have been made.

“We’ve finally got a handle on this,” Mayor Gary Jayne noted. “There were a number of things over the last few months we wanted to see developed, and things are now getting solidified.”

“The recycling system we have in place right now has been working quite well,” said Jayne. “We have a number of people using it, but DSWA is going to phase out the existing program by May of next year.”

The changes are being made now for new municipal customers, and are expected to be phased in for individual non-municipal curbside recycling by June of 2008.

The new system, while otherwise comparable to the current one, will be single-stream — meaning that recycled waste will not need to be sorted between bags or other bins. Instead, all recyclable material will be placed in one receptacle.

The new, voluntary, town-wide recycling program in South Bethany will be similar to neighboring Fenwick Island’s recent implementation. And Bethany Beach is considering adopting the program as well.

Participants in the towns who decide to take part will receive a 65-gallon bin on wheels that will be serviced weekly through the summer months, May through September, and biweekly in the cooler seasons.

Each South Bethany property owner involved will be billed $34 per year for the program, averaging at $1 per pickup. Jayne noted that the town is still working out the final adjustments, and the program will not start until January of 2008, on a two-year contract with DSWA.

Property owners can begin signing up at the Town Hall starting Oct. 1, and at the start of the year, they will receive their receptacles. The first $34 bill will be included with tax bills sent to property owners in the spring.

As Councilman John Rubinsohn described it, recycling is a revenue-neutral project for the town. “This isn’t something we’re doing to make money,” he said. “It’s a great incentive to the town.”

One concern that arose with the curbside recycling movement in the area was the effect the program might have on local Lions Club fundraising if aluminum cans throughout the community end up going straight into the DSWA stream rather than into the Lions Clubs’ fundraising bins.

Collection containers provided by the Lions Club will remain at South Bethany’s beach accesses, Jayne said. As Fenwick Island Lions Club member Bruce Schoonover explained in an interview, the cans are vital to the organization and the community.

“It happens to be our largest single fundraiser,” Schoonover said. “It’s big stuff for a small club.”

With Fenwick’s new voluntary, town-wide program, all DSWA recycling drop-off containers will be removed from next to the town hall — except the Lions Club aluminum drink can recycling bins, allowing the club to continue to raise funds from their recycling activities there.

Along with spaghetti dinners, Longaberger basket bingo and various other charity fundraisers, the Fenwick Island Lions Club raised more than $18,000 last year. The can recycling, though, is by far the most profitable operation for the charity.

Throughout the area, from Fenwick to Selbyville and Bethany Beach, the collection containers have been placed and are emptied on a regular basis by members of the club.

“People have been very generous, using the cans as their source for recycling,” Schoonover said. “I think they’re more inclined to use them when they know that 100 percent of the money we raise goes back to help the community. None of the money is skimmed off.”

In fact, the majority of the proceeds raised by the can collection benefit the Campaign SightFirst II, a sight program that screens infants and children for ablyopia, or “lazy eye.” If caught early, it can be easily treated and cured.

“We have amazing staff who put in so much time and effort,” he said. “They work year in and out and never complain to anyone.”

Despite the new town-wide recycling program, Schoonover said he is not discouraged about losing “business” from the cans, as long as the public knows that the bins are still around.