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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

SANITATION WORKERS PICK out the clear bags that indicate recyclable material in the Village of Liberty.

Recycling is the Word in Village

By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY — February 16, 2007 — There are just two options in Liberty – recycle or stash your own trash.
With its own municipal garbage hauling program, the Village of Liberty is charged with the same task every private hauler in the county has faced since 1992.
Only garbage may be dumped at the landfill in Monticello.
Any item listed on the county’s “detailed recycling instructions” must be separated from the trash and treated as a recyclable.
That’s county law.
But Liberty officials have their own list of reasons for upping recycling enforcement.
“We’re on a recycling kick in the Village of Liberty,” Mayor Rube Smith said with a laugh.
Although technically recycling since the county mandate in 1992, Pete Parks, working supervisor of the village’s department of public works, said there was never tough enforcement of the law.
Until two years ago.
That’s when the village kicked off a “real” recycling program.
Parks said the goal was to help keep the village clean, reduce the space being taken up in the county landfill by recyclable items and save some taxpayer dollars.
It’s worked.
In two years, the village has saved $71,000 in tipping fees.
So how did they do it?
The public works sanitation crew of six has been split – two men pick up recyclable items five days a week.
On Mondays, all 300 commercial customers in the village are required to put out their mixed paper products; Tuesday they put out their cardboard, and Friday they set out the rest of the items on the county’s list.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are recycling days for the 1,500 residential customers in Liberty.
When the county adds recyclable items to its list, the village sends out notices and new instructions. To ensure customers are well-informed, they also pass out a copy of the notices in Spanish.
But Parks and Smith say the real key to success is enforcement.
“We don’t pick up if you don’t comply,” Smith said simply.
When the village board first kicked around the idea of cutting off offenders, Parks said they really thought out the downsides.
“We thought we were going to have a huge mess, we thought we were going to have a health issue, we thought we were going to have garbage piling up all over the business district,” he recalled. “But we took the risk… they saw we were serious, and it worked.”
Customers are required to use clear plastic garbage bags, and the sanitation workers are charged with doing a cursory inspection to make sure their loading the truck with trash rather than recyclables.
Offenders are notified of problems with a “sanitation department non-pickup report,” which explains why their trash was left curbside.
A copy is also kept by the village to identify repeat offenders.
If people don’t heed the warnings, the next to visit is Village Code Enforcement Officer Pam Winters who has the power to issue a citation.
Out of 300 commercial customers, Parks estimates 25 don’t comply. On the residential end, the percentage is lower – maybe 75 out of 1,500.
“We monitor our garbage very closely, so we KNOW who’s not recycling,” Smith cautioned.
In the last two quarters, the village has seen a dip in recycling numbers. Where the recyclable tonnage numbers skyrocketed two years ago when the program was unveiled, it’s started to level out.
“People are getting complacent,” Smith said.
So Parks, Smith and others are jumping on the recycling bandwagon.
They’ve talked to school kids, other municipalities, even Sullivan Renaissance touting the benefits of recycling.
They crunched the numbers and came up with the $71,000 savings figure, plus a $4,000 profit made by selling scrap metal recycling to Weinert Recycling in Ferndale.
More important, Parks said, is the long-term savings.
A taxpayer himself, Parks said he has a hard time listening to people complain about recycling.
People have chased his guys down the street, slinging garbage at them in anger – all over recycling.
“These guys pass these notices out, and they get a lot of grief,” Parks said. “They’re good guys – these guys will be out all night plowing and sanding, then have to go out and pick up garbage all day long.
“We’re not trying to hurt anyone,” Parks continued.
The cost of not recycling will work out to a hike in the village’s user fees down the line as the landfill space gets used up by glass bottles and soda can boxes that could easily have been separated out into recyclable bins.
“It’s going to cost us a fortune to truck [our garbage] miles from here,” Parks estimated.
Parks doesn’t have time for the people complaining about the clear plastic bag rule either.
Village officials visited businesses that stock garbage bags in the Liberty area (including the larger stores like ShopRite, the Trading Post and Tractor Supply) in person, asking them to stock clear bags.
“Some people say it’s difficult to buy clear bags – maybe they’re all sold out – I don’t know,” he said with a sigh.
It all comes back to the rules.
Clear bags. Separate trash from recyclables. Separate the recyclables by the categories supplied.
Then leave it up to the sanitation workers who swing by at least once a week.
It’s not that hard, Parks said.
He gave a big thumbs up to commercial customers like the Lenape Hotel which has clearly labeled recyclable bins out by its Dumpster or the manager of the Liberty Manor Apartments who built a recycling center right on the premises.
Smith said he’s also proud to say Thompson Sanitation has refused to come in the village boundaries to pick up the trash of folks who aren’t complying with the recycling law.
“We do have a lot of people in compliance,” Parks said proudly.
In his 15 years on the job, trash pick-up has become a different business for Liberty.
“It’s a long, slow-moving process, but it’s panning out,” he said. “Everybody’s trying to make an effort.”
And if you don’t, Smith said, you’re going to have a lot of garbage to deal with.
“We know everyone in this village who recycles and everyone who doesn’t,” he said with a grin.

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