IRC urges lawmakers to think recycling

The organization that oversees recycling in the four Blair County municipalities mandated to operate a curbside program recently authorized a summary of recommendations for state lawmakers designed to ease the organization’s cash-flow problems and help it fulfill its mission.

The Intermunicipal Relations Committee’s cash-flow problem is so acute that one of the member municipalities may need to lend it money within two months if delayed and reduced state grant income doesn’t arrive.

Many of the recommendations for state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, and state Reps. John McGinnis, R-Altoona, and Judy Ward, R-Hollidaysburg, relate to those delays and reductions.

The committee urged the lawmakers to:

n Support Senate Bill 646, which would eliminate the 2020 expiration of the state’s recycling fee established by Act 101. The threat of that expiration has contributed to delays in grants that the committee relies on. If the expiration occurs, it would end some types of recycling grants next year, according to the recommendations summary that will go to the lawmakers.

n Persuade colleagues to refrain from further transfers of money from the state’s recycling fund to help balance shortfalls in the general fund. The General Assembly has taken about $130 million from the recycling fund in the last 15 years or so — depredations that have contributed both to delays and reductions in grant funding, according to IRC Executive Director John Frederick.

n Work toward explicit language in Act 101 to permit counties to levy a recycling surcharge. Such language would replace a surcharge that was struck down by the courts years ago, leading to the dissolution of county solid waste departments, including Blair’s, according to Frederick. Since that dissolution occurred, the committee has assumed many of the duties once handled by Blair County’s Solid Waste Department.

n Restore “administrative oversight” to the Bureau of Waste Minimization and Planning within the Department of Environmental Protection, to further eliminate grant delays.

n Encourage DEP to eliminate a policy that assumes that 15 percent of recyclables collected are contaminated and thus unusable — an assumption that is based on averages for single-stream recycling programs. But that is unfair when applied to double-stream programs like the IRC’s, which don’t have such a contamination problem.

n Revise the law governing electronics recycling, so that it’s easier to do and so it wouldn’t cost the committee $37,000 a year.

n Revise Act 101 to require municipalities with smaller populations or lower population densities to operate curbside programs, thus broadening the footprint of recycling around the state.

n Work toward “universal access” to solid waste collection and recycling service, to help reduce the problem of illegal dumping and open burning.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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