The following has been sent by the Kent Environmental Council to the Portage County Solid Waste Commission, and is being sent to the Record-Courier as an open letter concerning the consideration of privatizing recycling in Portage County:
The Kent Environmental Council, which operated the recycling program for the city of Kent in the 1980s and was actively involved in the development of the county's program, would like to urge caution as the County Solid Waste Commission considers revisions to the county's solid waste management plan that would include the collection of recyclable material by private contractors.
When the first plan was adopted, the private sector displayed no interest in operating a recycling facility, hence the need for the public sector to "close the loop" and collect and process material for which the market was not lucrative enough to attract the private sector. We are pleased that conditions have changed in 20 years, but still believe that the public sector has a critical role to play in the collection of recyclable material.
The market for recyclables is a highly volatile one, requiring the commitment of a public entity to even out the market when demand is low. We believe that control can best be maintained if mixed recyclables from all over the county are collected at the Brimfield plant for shipment to the sorting facility in Akron.
As the market for recyclable material and collection of material evolves, it will be important that adequate public sector research be conducted to assure that collected material is, in fact, being recycled, or in the case of waste-to-energy projects, that adequate environmental safeguards are in place. Additionally, administrative fees must include funding to collect baseline data so that accountability can be established for proposed new methods of processing discarded material from households and businesses in Portage County.
Portage County's program is considered a model community recycling program by State of Ohio agencies and is often sought out by other communities in and out of the state looking to establish recycling programs. It would be a serious loss if our years of experience with this program were thoughtlessly eliminated in a rush to privatization. We need to ask: What happens to recyclable material when it does not meet a private hauler's profit margin? Will they be collected as "recyclable material" when in fact they are being landfilled? To whom would private haulers be accountable?
Lisa Regula Meyer, Kent