Recycling success ironically lowers Mahoning Green Team’s green

By Peter H. Milliken


The Mahoning County Solid Waste Management District is facing a budget crunch driven by the success of the recycling it promotes, its assistant director says.

The district, which includes the county’s recycling division, is funded almost entirely by fees paid for dumping waste in the county’s landfills, and that revenue is declining as more materials are reused and recycled and less waste is dumped in landfills, explained Mari Wren Petrony, assistant director of the district, which is also known as The Green Team.

“As people become more aware of the effects on the earth of garbage — of pollution, etc. — people become more interested” in reuse and recycling of items they no longer need and in reduction of landfill-bound garbage, she said at Thursday’s commissioners’ meeting.

“In terms of recycling, our numbers are going up because businesses are coming on board. We do a business recycling program. We also have a lot of metal recyclers in this area that help our recycling rate,” she noted.

This year’s bankruptcy and closing of the Central Waste landfill in Smith Township near Alliance will further reduce Green Team revenue, she noted.

The Carbon-Limestone landfill in Poland Township and the Waste Management landfill in Springfield Township remain active.

John A. McNally IV, chairman of the county commissioners and of the county’s recycling policy board, said he doesn’t expect there will be any way “for the commissioners to directly help The Green Team in their funding issues. We have our own issues within the general fund, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

The general fund is the county’s main operating fund.

“The commissioners have final say over all budget issues involving The Green Team,” McNally added.

Green Team revenues from landfill dumping fell from about $2.8 million in 2010 to about $2.7 million in 2011 and are projected to drop to about $2.5 million this year, Wren Petrony said.

The financial free fall, however, will be cushioned somewhat by The Green Team’s carry-over funds, which she said amounted to more than $400,000 from 2011 to 2012.

The Green Team’s top priorities, curbside and drop-off recycling programs, will continue to be its business, and it doesn’t intend to cut them, she said.

The Green Team is faced with the prospect of cutting its distributions from the landfill dumping fees to the county engineer’s office for repaving of roads used by landfill-bound trucks, she said.

This year, the engineer got about $50,000 for repaving those roads.

“We try and run fiscally prudent, and will reduce office-supply spending and freeze staff salaries and benefits,” Wren Petrony said of The Green Team.

The Ohio Legislature is considering proposals by the waste-disposal industry to reduce landfill dumping fees below the current $1.50 per ton for waste originating in Mahoning County or out-of-state and $3 per ton for waste originating within Ohio but outside Mahoning County, Wren Petrony said.

The proposed legislation does not offer another funding source to compensate for any losses in landfill revenue from fee reductions, she added. “That would cripple a lot of our programs” of reuse and recycling, she said.

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