April 23, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
41°F

Medina County wants to bring paper recycling in-house

MEDINA — A recycling pro­posal from the Medina County Solid Waste District is based on the concept of spending money to make money.

The district has proposed giving area school districts $1 per student, which amounts to about $28,000, if they agree to not use an out-of-county recy­cler. That way, the county’s Central Processing Facility in Westfield Township doesn’t lose an estimated $300,000 in revenue from recyclables annually.

County commissioners ulti­mately will be the ones to approve any agreement.

Disappearing bins

In the meantime, all the green Paper Retriever bins owned by private recycler Abitibi Bowater have been removed from local schools at superintendents’ requests.

County officials want bins like these removed from schools’ and other organization’s grounds so the county can recycle the paper instead. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY BENJAMIN NAGY)

County officials want bins like these removed from schools’ and other organization’s grounds so the county can recycle the paper instead. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY BENJAMIN NAGY)

“We were saddened to remove our bins from the Med­ina County schools,” said Denise Piotrowski, manager of Abitibi’s Cleveland office. “Our partnership with those schools showed great effort from the staff, faculty and the students to get the community involved in recycling to reap the rewards of our work.”

Abitibi had maintained bins to collect paper recyclables in Medina County for six years. Last year, the company reported it collected about 2,300 tons of newspaper in the county and paid about $30,000 in rewards to host sites in exchange for collecting the paper.

All the hosts of Abitibi bins are nonprofits, such as schools, and can use the money for projects of their choosing. She said there are still about 100 bins in Medina County at pri­vate schools, churches and other nonprofits.

However, county officials say the recycling program violates the Solid Waste District’s pol­icy. Paper and other recyclables already are removed from trash at the Central Processing Facil­ity.

When the facility was built in 1993, the Solid Waste District instituted a policy of flow con­trol, which means all the trash and recyclables that originate in the county must be sent to the facility. That way, the Solid Waste District and CPF’s oper­ator are paid for the cost of processing recyclables and for selling them to be recycled.

According to projections from the Solid Waste District, the county lost about $127,000 last year and the CPF’s opera­tor, Envision Waste Services , lost about $178,000 from paper collected by Abitibi that was not processed by the CPF.

“If there are no recyclables in the trash and we allow people to come into the county against our solid waste plan, we are making a big mistake,” said Bill Strazinsky, coordina­tor of the Solid Waste District. “I then have to tell the EPA why I’m letting people come into the county.”

Education

The county hasn’t filed a law­suit against Abitibi. Instead, it’s going to the organizations that host the bins to request they stop using them.

“We’re getting compliance without going to court. That’s the incentive here,” said Com­missioner Steve Hambley, who is the liaison for the county Sanitary Engineer’s Office, which oversees the Solid Waste District.

The first step involves setting up an education and grant pro­gram for schools. Eventually, the Solid Waste District will begin to reach out to other organizations that host bins and ask them not to do so any­more.

First, the Solid Waste District is establishing a recycling cur­riculum for the county’s schools.

“Part of our problem has always been we have the most unique recycling program in the state, bar none,” Strazinsky said.

He said many county resi­dents don’t understand their trash is automatically sorted, and that will change over time by teaching children about recycling at the CPF.

In addition, the Solid Waste District has proposed giving $1-per-student grants. The school districts would be able to use the money for whatever programming they want, just as they could with the Abitibi grant.

To be eligible to receive the money, the schools can’t have Abitibi bins and must imple­ment the education program.

County Sanitary Engineer Jim Troike said Envision has offered to pay half the grant, or about $14,000. He said it would start as a one-time grant but could continue if it proves suc­cessful.

A letter detailing the pro­posal went out to superintend­ents earlier this summer. How­ever, the sanitary engineer’s office did not get official approval from commissioners beforehand.

Commissioner Pat Geissman said she was surprised by the offer. She said it may not be the best economic decision, since the sanitary engineer’s office took out a $1.2 million loan to upgrade CPF equipment ear­lier this year. In addition, the facility plans to increase the tipping fee charged to trash haulers in order to help pay off the loan.

“I don’t know if this was thought out really well,” she said. “I just think this is the wrong way to approach this. I’m sure there are other options.”

She suggested the county could set up recycling pro­grams to help the schools col­lect recyclables and bring them to the CPF.

Troike sent a memo to com­missioners last week that detailed the costs of such a program. Placing receptacles for the paper would cost $31,000 or $96,000, depending on the kind of receptacle. In addition, operating it would cost between $1,800 and $3,750 a month.

On top of that, the county and Envision would not receive a tipping fee, which they do when trash haulers bring in waste.

Commissioner Sharon Ray said the board would consider the program and soon decide whether to approve it.

Superintendents’ views

Buckeye Superintendent Dennis Honkala said he’s most excited about the education program.

“Regardless of the money that we get or don’t get, the fact that they’re willing to work on a curriculum for our kids is priceless,” he said.

He said it’s important that people know how recycling works in the county.

“Medina County needs to stick their chest out and say, ‘We’re a nationally known recy­cling county.’ ” He said money that used to come in from the Paper Retrievers helped fund some student organizations and their projects, like a middle­school student recycling group. “We’ll make sure those stu­dents’ opportunities to pro­mote recycling continue,” he said.

Medina Superintendent Randy Stepp said the money from Abitibi also went to stu­dent projects in his district. He said the grant from the county will cover the Abitibi money that would have gone to those groups.

However, he said the Abitibi bins served as a tool for teach­ing students about recycling.

“The only drawback that I can see is that the kids aren’t going to have a bin outside their school to have the hands­on experience,” he said. How­ever, he said he appreciates the educational initiatives from the county.

“I think it can work. I think the county is trying to work through it and figure out some options,” he said. “In the end, I’man advocate 100 percent for keeping as much money in the county as we possibly can.”

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.

  • 2begreen

    While I understand the educational factor here, I have to agree with Ms. Geissman on this. Why rob Peter to pay Paul? Is she the only one looking out for the taxpayers? I also find it interesting she was “surprised”. Did the other 2 commissioners not let her in on a discussion? Isn’t this a violation of some sort?

    It’s very evident that there is an epidemic in government/politics. If we, the taxpayer, think for one minute they “care” about us or our community, think again. They only care about who lines their pockets at election time.

  • grayvue

    Sounds like the other two commissioners actually understand the math – the County lost $127,000 last year and the CPF contractor lost $178,000. Money that went out of the county to a Canadian company, instead of paying for recycling at our plant. Hopefully this will keep them from raising the tipping fees any higher. I don’t wont to pay more for trash disposal or recycling. The CPF was built to recycle everything, according to the Solid Waste District Coordinator. Why should I pay more for people that are being irresponsible and not helping the recycling system work efficiently as possible? I hope it works and we see more people realize what a fantastic recycling system we have in Medina County!

  • msmarine

    How is this robbing Peter to pay Paul? Envision is paying $14,000 of the $28,000 school grant, which means the county’s income from the in house recycling program is around $113,000. That’s $113,000 EXTRA coming in to the county on a yearly basis. How is that a bad thing? Thanks Commissioner Hambley and Commissioner Ray, It seems you are the ones who are looking out for the tax payers.

    I also don’t believe Commissioner Geissman was surprised by this offer. Maybe 2begreen should call Jim Troike and verify when ALL of the Commissioners were notified before accusing anyone of being underhanded. Jim Troike doesn’t do business that way.

  • commoncents

    Commissioner Geissman is right, who wants to make a 1,000% return on their money? We are so lucky to have Pat’s penny-wise leadership.

  • msmarine

    The schools are going along with this because of the grant. Without the school’s cooperation, there would be no $113,000 extra money. I guess Pat’s not as penny-wise as you think. Except . . . rumor has is Pat’s already changed her mind and agrees it’s a good thing. Imagine that!

  • commoncents

    Hey 2BeGreen, which commissioner do you think took a boat load of money from Envision? Kind of ironic, huh? Of course, you probably don’t know that, this paper would never print what is really going on in this county, it doesn’t conform to their agenda, but maybe the PD or BJ will?

  • 2begreen

    The problem is we are already paying for 30 years to the schools, why should we pay more? What you don’t seem to get is in the long run this will effect us when they raise the tipping fees, which they said they would, and that will reflect on our bill. At Britta, I know Mr. Troike and he is as up front as the next person. I was referring to Ms. Geissman being surprised at the meeting and stating that in the paper. Anything else I can’t get into.
    I love the recycling center and think it’s one of the best things going. It should be highlighted more in our County. My beef is giving more money to the schools when they are already getting enough of the taxpayers money. You all don’t know how it really is…the inside…it’s ugly.

  • 2begreen

    Not even you Common cents…

  • commoncents

    If that was your issue greenie, why did you falsely imply the good commissioners “lined their pockets at election time?” Pull the finance reports, know who the crooks are before you make statements like that. Eventually, everyone will know of these misdeeds.

  • 2begreen

    because you don’t know what’s not on the books common…sad, but true

  • commoncents

    If you don’t know what is on the books, how could you know what isn’t? Seriously, pull the Campaign Finance Reports for these 3 Commissioners and tell me who “lines their pockets.” While you’re at it, pull their travel expenses. You’ll be more surprised than your favorite commissioner.

  • msmarine

    In response to 2begreen – from what I’ve read, the tipping fees are going up because of the upgrading of the machines. The grant money going back to the schools will be coming from the increase in the recycled products the schools are not sending to another county. Keep in mind the county will still be getting around $113,000 more per year. What about doing what’s right for the schools and their programs? After all, they have been getting $30,000 per year from the other company.

    To Common cents – how do I pull up the campaign finance reports for the commissioners and the travel expenses? I would like to find out more information about these.

    After listening to Commissioner Hambley speak on Saturday, I realized there has been some distorted information being spread by the group calling themselves “the good guys”. I spoke with him after the meeting and let him know how enlightened I was after hearing his speach. I found out the yearly budgets were passed 3-0, what means all three Commissioners were in agreement. That’s not how one of the Commissioners is portraying it.

    I have always told my son to speak the truth and never distort the facts, the truth always comes out. Maybe she and her friends can learn from that.

  • commoncents

    The County’s Finance Director can help you (or anyone else who cares where their tax dollars get squandered) with the travel expenses and the board of elections is required to provide you with the finance reports, all you have to do is ask.

  • msmarine

    Thanks for the information; I found the facts very interesting.