Officials discuss feasibility of facility

Officials from seven surrounding counties attended the symposium.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County's Materials Recovery Facility Committee will be considering results of a brainstorming session to determine the viability of such an operation.
About two dozen recycling officials from Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania gathered Wednesday at Youngstown State University's Kilcawley Center for a symposium on materials recovery facilities, or MRFs.
Among those attending were officials from Ashtabula, Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Stark and Tuscarawas counties in Ohio and Lawrence County in Pennsylvania.
James Petuch, director of Mahoning County's recycling division, said contributions of recyclables from the region are vital to making an MRF possible. Private-sector participation also will be a key, he said.
The recycling officials talked in small groups about the economics of an MRF; the market for the product produced there; the type of facility -- whether it would include trash processing or just recyclables; and the facility's design.
Officials from Unipaper Recycling Co. of Pittsburgh, which operates four MRFs and four transfer stations, talked about operations and challenges.
The industry is global, but the price of products created at MRFs is volatile and unpredictable, they said. The operation is capital- and maintenance-intensive and there is competition, they said. There are several MRFs within a two-hour radius of Youngstown, they added.
Ron Kolbash supports the idea of exploring an MRF in the Mahoning Valley. Kolbash, the chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' recycling division, brought good news and bad news on the topic.
The recent state budget slashed his agency's funding from $12 million to $5.2 million. His division has been reduced from 32 to 10 people and now will be brought under the state's real estate and land management office. Kolbash, in fact, will be moving out of recycling and into real estate operations.
The good news, however, is that the cutback forced the state to realign its priorities, he said. MRFs are at the top of the state's recycling funding priorities, Kolbash said.
The state will help fund items such as conveyers, hoppers, shredders and forklifts that are central to operating MRFs, he said.
"What you're doing here is absolutely correct," Kolbash said. "It makes good sense."

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