Rehoboth Avenue Recycling Mess Continues



This is a second follow-up to this original article from three years ago, months before the Delaware Universal Recycling law mandated that all businesses recycle as of Jan. 1, 2014. Since the original article, we have received several requests to research and continue to track this issue.

State officials are quick to point out that lack of participation in the recycling process is a statewide problem not limited to Rehoboth. However, it is obvious on Rehoboth Avenue because so many smaller businesses rely on the city to discard their refuse which is placed on the curb at roughly the same time each weekday morning (excluding Wednesdays).

In Rehoboth Beach, piles of cardboard boxes, other recyclables and garbage are collected by the city from Rehoboth Avenue. It is all compacted into a city trash truck and despite the recyclability of these items, they ultimately find their way to a landfill.

Even the blue recycling bins along Rehoboth Avenue, associated with residential apartments and the few remaining homes, have been dumped by city public works crews into city trash trucks for many months now.

Furthermore, businesses that had relied on the recycling drop-off facility behind the firehouse must now either drive miles to reach an alternate site, hire their own hauler or simply dump their recyclables into the city’s trash stream, the option of least expense and resistance.

State officials say the former Rehoboth recycling drop-off facility behind the firehouse will not return and the state will continue to close even more recycling drop-off spots. The number of recycling centers, says James Short, an environmental scientist with DNREC, has decreased dramatically in the last year, from more than 180 to around 45 today. “This programmatic change will magnify the need for comprehensive commercial recyclables collection services throughout the state,” he points out.

While the City of Rehoboth Beach provides trash collection in both commercial and residential neighborhoods, recycling services are only provided to the residential customers using a contractor, Blue Hen Disposal, and only once a week during the season.

A representative from Blue Hen said Friday that his company is responsible for hauling the recyclables from the blue bins for all residential customers in the City of Rehoboth Beach. If the city is emptying the bins on Rehoboth Avenue, he said he is not certain why the city would.

Krys Johnson, Rehoboth Beach spokeswoman, would not specifically answer why the city public works crews have been dumping recyclables from the blue recycle bins on Rehoboth Avenue into trash trucks, nor would she speculate on why city hall had no recycle bin. Public works crews delivered one this past Friday. But which truck will empty it has yet to be seen.

“As you are aware we are in a transition period utilizing a third party vendor for city recycling,” Johnson had stated. “The city is working with the recycling vendor to provide timely pick up to all customers.” She also added that “The city is working on consistent and effective solutions that address all the items you have listed.”

Despite additional e-mails and phone calls to her office, she has not yet provided any further comment about trash and recycling in Rehoboth Beach beyond the previous paragraph.

The city trash trucks have also been used to routinely empty those same blue recycle bins found in the city’s parks, mostly in Grove Park, although Blue Hen empties them on Fridays.

Despite the Universal Recycling law requiring businesses to recycle, little has changed more than two years after the state law was implemented. State officials have made it clear that the individual businesses are responsible for complying with the state’s Universal Recycling law, and the city is not obligated to provide recycling services.

“Every business that holds a State of Delaware business license was notified of the requirement to implement comprehensive recycling – ignorance is no excuse,” Short told us in last year’s report. But the problem continues to persist. The photos in this report, taken again this summer, demonstrate the lack of change.

According to Short, about half of all waste originates from the commercial sector and the remainder comes from the residential customers. To achieve high-diversion rates, the state implemented its comprehensive residential and commercial recycling programs.

By law, businesses that rely on the city for trash removal must seek other methods to handle their recyclables. But many businesses are finding it easiest, or even essential, to simply pile their refuse along Rehoboth Avenue around 9 a.m. knowing the city public works crews will haul it off. As one Rehoboth businessman noted, the Avenue has enough delivery trucks on it now. If each business contracts with a different recycling company, the truck traffic will only get worse.

“I would have no room to store a trash bin or dumpster,” says Jeff Balk, owner of Snyder’s Candy. “My store is roughly 600 square foot with the office/storeroom being 200 square foot of that space. There is no room to store one or two dumpsters, let alone maneuver it from the back of the storage room behind candy cases to get to the front door to place the dumpster outside,” he points out.

“The city trash/recycle program has worked very well in the past when recycle was separated and picked up by a recycle truck on the scheduled Fridays,” he added. “We would place our recyclables next to the blue can that the upstairs apartment had and it would be picked up by the recycle company.” Although Balk says he continues to separate recyclable items from trash, he noticed it has been going into the same trash truck as everything else.

As potentially valuable recyclables continue to pour directly into the city’s trash stream, Rehoboth waits for a solution.

Bethany provides commercial trash and recycling pickups every day during the summer.

Bethany Beach actually provides both trash removal and recycling services for residential as well as commercial customers. Brett Warner, public works director, says seven days a week during the season his crews remove trash and recyclables from all commercial customers with the exception of Grotto’s, which has its own hauler.

Warner said Bethany Beach provides this service at a more competitive price than commercial haulers, so they do not have many complaints from the businesses. The fee is included in the tax bill. He said the town has been providing recycling service for several years to comply with the Universal Recycling law. The trucks have enough capacity to store recyclables over the weekend when the recycle facilities are closed.

Neither Lewes nor Dewey Beach, according to officials in those towns, is involved with commercial trash or recycling.

Although DNREC is the agency responsible for implementing and enforcing Universal Recycling, Short had said this was a “Rehoboth issue” because the city provides the collection service and needs to work with the generators on a collection system that works for everyone.

Last August, Sharon Lynn, Rehoboth Beach city manager, said “The Commissioner’s and I have been studying this issue and hope to resolve it by the end of the year.” But still no change has been seen on Rehoboth Avenue.

Funland, Blue Moon, among those Rehoboth Beach businesses making recycling happen

“Funland has had a recycling program for many years, and we feel it is important to do as a business,” says Christopher Darr, personnel manager at Funland. “We try to have a recycling can next to each trash can or at least within a few feet. Not only do we recycle bottles/cans, but we have a lot of cardboard to recycle due to all of the stuffed animal boxes we use. Twice a week Waste Management dumps a 6 yard dumpster full of cardboard and twice a week Blue Hen Disposal dumps a 6 yard dumpster full of plastic bottles. This is the first year that we have contracted for bottles/cans because the city no longer offers a recycling option at city hall,” he pointed out.

Darr agrees with most every business person interviewed for this article in that Rehoboth Beach public works crews do amazing work every day cleaning the beach, sidewalks and streets. They deserve recognition for their consistent efforts.

“We are the first to say that the city does a fantastic job keeping the city clean and collecting trash, but there is a missed opportunity for recycling. It would be nice to see recycling cans on the boardwalk, beach and main street because everything goes in the trash. If we are collecting 6 yards of plastic bottles twice a week at Funland, I can only imagine what the city would recycle. Although the city does offer a residential recycling program, I think there is a gap for businesses,” Darr points out.

“Currently,” he adds, “businesses have to go out of their way to recycle. The state mandates that businesses recycle, but no one is enforcing it, so I don’t think very many businesses are doing it. Perhaps there is a way for the city to help with this issue by requiring each business to provide proof of a recycling contract to get a business license or offering a recycling program for businesses.”

To complicate matters, there is still no recycling pickup on the weekends, says Randy Haney, comptroller of the Blue Moon. That is one of the challenges the smaller businesses face, what to do if they do not have frequent removal of recyclables as the recycling facilities are closed on weekends.

Haney expressed the same concerns three years ago about the haulers not offering weekend removal of recyclables. Businesses are often forced to place weekend recyclables in the regular trash, he says. Ironically, Haney said he cannot get recycling removed on weekends, unlike regular trash.

Haney included this photo of the Blue Moon’s 6-yard recycling dumpster from this past Friday night. This will not be removed until today (Monday). Everything from Saturday and Sunday they had to throw into the regular trash since they are unable to find any company to remove recyclables on weekends!

DNREC to host discussion this Wednesday

“Both the City of Rehoboth and DNREC are well aware of the issues you’ve brought up,” says Short, “and they are not exclusive to Rehoboth.” For this reason, DNREC’s recycling program within the Solid & Hazardous Waste Management Section has invited all public and private waste haulers that offer recycling services in Delaware to a meeting this Wednesday, Aug. 24, at 1:30 p.m. at DNREC’s R&R building auditorium, 89 Kings Highway in Dover to discuss the problematic issues reported throughout the state with recycling services.

DNREC announced this past week that the agency will offer a second round of recycling grants to help schools, businesses and institutions start recycling programs or expand programs that are already in place.