A surplus of confusion with new recycling law

On a nondescript morning in March, I was beckoned into the home office by my husband, Daren.

Special to the Coastal Point • Daren Criswell: Waste Management provided its customers with a new recycle bin in accordance with HB 234, and has tacked on a $25 per quarter fee for the service.Special to the Coastal Point • Daren Criswell
Waste Management provided its customers with a new recycle bin in accordance with HB 234, and has tacked on a $25 per quarter fee for the service.

“There’s a new trashcan at the end of the driveway. Is it ours?” We stood at the window, like fascinated children, beholding the new trashcan with a yellow lid at the end of our long driveway. Recycling had finally come to our doorstep, just as House Bill 234 had dictated it should.

Just a few days later, so too came the bill: $25 more per quarter from Waste Management. That’s $100 more per year, bringing our trash collection bill to nearly $500 per year, which includes our trash collection and now recycling. The original recycling bin drop-off also came with a letter from Waste Management, discussing the new pick-up schedule, but it had said nothing about the price hike, not surprisingly.

Even before the recent price hikes, the steep pricing from Waste Management was just too much for some. In fact, my own mother-in-law, Chris, decided to terminate her trash collection some time ago because of the exorbitant prices that only seem to be going up with each passing year.

That had been fine, because she could get her recycling through the state of Delaware, but HB 234 has now changed all that. This month, her recycling services will be terminated, and she anticipates bringing her recycling to the center on Bennett Farm Road, where they will still offer streamlined recycling, free of charge – at least for now.

I placed a call to Waste Management, out of curiosity, and (due to high call volume) was unable to speak with anyone directly. What I did get, though, was an automated message saying that Waste Management is only offering “bundled” packages for trash and recycling as a result of HB 234. It said that the price increase included both these services. It’s not a choice, clearly, and I couldn’t help but feel as though consumers are being put over a barrel, at least a little bit.

If there seems to be a disconnect, or a bit of confusion, that would be a fair assessment – at least in my own opinion. In a conversation with Terry Truitt, the town administrator of Frankford (which is the township we technically belong to), I sought a follow up on how HB 234 was being implemented for her residents.

For all intents and purposes she said, “Things are going very quiet.” One of the biggest concerns the town initially had was removal of yard waste. Frankford is now filtering their municipal yard waste through Blue Hen Disposal and Selbyville Pet & Garden Center (which takes it for free).

As far as the town’s recycling drop-off center is concerned, Truitt said she wasn’t sure when or if it would be removed. If it is removed, she conceded, it is likely to “wake a sleeping dog.”

Furthermore, she was just as intrigued as I was about the Waste Management recycling bins that were going out.

It seems to me that in the bigger towns, such as Bethany Beach and Georgetown, where the trash collection had already been handled by the towns, the implementation of HB 234 makes for an easy transition. But in towns that have more sprawling area, such as Frankford or Selbyville – not to mention smaller budgets and perhaps more people – people are having more trouble getting answers.

Communication between governmental avenues is slow, if not nonexistent in many cases, and this makes communication between people like Truitt and her constituents frustrating.

For a person like me, who is environmentally conscious, and in support of Universal Recycling and HB 234, this makes for a strange paradox. Seeing the struggle of the towns to comply amidst little information and the hike in bills during the recession can make even the most liberal among us feel a little taken advantage of. But isn’t it for a bigger, better cause?

In the end, I believe we’ll all adjust because we are sort of being forced to. I think that the proverbial growing pains that we are experiencing will birth a better, more environmentally responsible community. There may even be a day when we look back, incredulous, and say, “remember the time our community was in an uproar over HB 234? How silly that all was!”

The truth is universal recycling programs like the one our state is realizing are an important step, not just for our communities, but for humankind, as well.