OXFORD — Oxford may be throwing away money.
Warren Bennett, supervisor at the town’s transfer and recycling center, has told the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee that a significant dip in recycling is affecting his budget and that is cause for concern for every taxpayer.
“Recycling has declined by 11 percent in the past year and it is hitting all of us in the wallet,” Bennett reported.
According to Bennett, the loss of 11 percent of recycling amounts to 124.3 tons of material that the town has to put through the trash compactor at an added cost of about $11,600.
By recycling, said Bennett, the town can save $90 per ton that it costs when those items are simply put in the trash.
That savings, coupled with an average of $150 per ton paid to the town by a broker for most recyclable products, gives the town an “avoided cost” of about $240 per ton, Bennett said.
“We avoided $90 paid to trash it and we are paid $150.00 per ton by our broker,” he explained.
“We handled 90 tons more (of trash) this year,” said Bennett. “That’s 124.3 tons of material that was not recycled.”
Oxford has one of the few transfer stations in the area that does not charge for a dump sticker.
Prove you’re a property owner and you’re in. But that free entry, comes with responsibility.
Recycling became mandatory in Oxford in April of 1990 as a way to keep certain materials out of the trash and to save taxpayers’ money by removing the recyclable material from the wastestream.
Bennett says he uses a soft sell approach to recycling, explaining the benefits to residents.
For example, along with free entry to the facility located off Skeetfield Road, the Oxford Recycling Center also comes with a coupon that allows a property owner to dump two tires, one refrigerator, a freezer, air conditioner or dehumidifier, one couch or chair and one mattress or box spring of any size, each year, all for free.
“We try to hold that carrot out there instead of beating them down,” he said of trying to get residents to recycle.
“I know what can be done with recycling,” said Bennett, who with his wife, ran the recycling center at Wilsons Mill, a village in Lincoln Plantation, an unorganized territory in northern Oxford County, for more than 20 years.
“We (Wilsons Mill) had one of the highest recycling rates in the state, even in an area high with seasonal camp grounds.
“They knew they had to recycle. Even though its not perfect it was the best they could do that week,” he said.
Oxford has a fair number of large businesses and almost all of those do recycle, contracting with their own brokers for removal of their recyclables. But a few, like Polly’s Variety and the Dura-Bilt showroom of sunrooms, screenrooms and carports, contribute to the local revenues by bringing their recyclables to the Oxford Recycling Center.
Dura-Bilt, for examples, brings large amounts of cardboard boxes they accumulate to the Recycling Center. According to information from Bennett, cardboard currently pays $175 per ton. The town gets back about $3,500 per load in revenue.
While recycling can be a lucrative and environmentally sound business, the decline in local participation coupled with the impact of recent action in China, means costs are going up.
Much of this country’s recyclables, including some from Oxford, have ended up in China for the past several decades, where the material is reshaped into all sorts of items ranging from egg cartons to plastic bottles.
But sloppy recycling habits and the increasingly popular single stream recycling is causing problems. The materials are arriving in are often China ridden with contaminants, said Bennett.
Last year, fed up with contaminate-laced bails of recyclables coming into their country, Bejing announced a ban on imports of 24 varieties of solid waste. They have now added dozens of items to the list of those already banned.
The Chinese government said last month that it is extending last year’s ban on imports of items such as unsorted paper and some plastics to dozens more types of recyclable materials, including steel waste and used auto parts.
And that has a financial impact felt all the way back in Oxford.
Experts say the ban has been a massive wake-up call for countries like the United States, that had 31 percent of its scrap commodity exports sent to China in 2017, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. Other countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan and others who relied on China to buy and handle their trash from them, are also seeing impacts.
Bennett said he does not see Oxford ever going to single stream recycling. With clean, consistent recycling, Oxford can continue to cut its costs and contribute to the environment.
But residents have to recycle.
Based on Fiscal 2017 numbers the town reported that 89.90 more tons of materials were handled through trash that could have been recycled.
“We handled 90 tons more this year,” said Bennett. “That’s 124.3 tons of material that was not recycled.”
The message is simple, said Bennett.
What you can recycle
OXFORD — The following materials are accepted at the Town of Oxford recycling center and transfer station:
- NEWSPRINT – newspapers and all contents and flyers: magazines, catalogs, paperbacks, etc.
- MIXED PAPER – most envelopes, junk mail, cereal boxes, wrapping paper, dry food boxes
- GLASS – bottles and jars only, must be clean, labels OK, NO window, glass or bulbs.
- #2 NATURAL PLASTIC – RINSE CLEAN, jugs, (milk, water, windshield wash, vinegar, orange juice, etc.)
- #2 COLORED PLASTIC – RINSE CLEAN, bottles, jugs, laundry soap, bleach, most hair products, etc.
- ALUMINUM & TIN CANS – NEED TO BE CLEAN: all tin cans, cat food, etc.
- METAL – all white goods, (stoves, dryers, washers, ranges, mowers, snow blowers, etc.) Oil and gas must be removed first.
- DEMOLITION – wood: (painted, stained, w/nails), plywood, chipboard, sheetrock, pressure treated, doors, windows, door casings, etc.
- LEAVES, grass clippings, food wastes, sawdust, shavings – shredded and made into compost
- PINE NEEDLES, brush and trees – All go into brush pile and chipped for Biomass (no length limit) and (no stumps.)
- PAINT – All household liquid paints, to include latex, oil, stains. MUST have label and cans not rusted through, the EXCEPTIONS are automotive paints, driveway sealers, paint thinners, Epoxy paints, and marine paints, rubber sealers. MOST EXCEPTIONS TO PAINT RECYCLING CAN BE DRIED OUT WITH SPEEDI DRI AND PUT INTO REGULAR TRASH. EMPTY PAINT CANS (DRY) GO INTO REGULAR TRASH.
(Courtesy of Town of Oxford)