The law stated that all homes, businesses, offices and institutions in any of these communities had to begin recycling by Sept. 26. Towns with a population of between 5,000 and 10,000 have an extra year to set up a program. With the first deadline having passed yesterday, those Bucks County communities mandated to meet that deadline are at least halfway there in terms of setting up their recycling plans.
According to county recycling coordinator Charles Raudenbush Jr., every town in Bucks that is required to meet the deadline already has its residential recycling program up and running. And some smaller communities, such as Perkasie and Langhorne, are recycling well ahead of their 1991 deadline.
But most of the towns affected by yesterday's deadline are still working on their commercial recycling plan, which municipal officials say is much more complex and difficult to monitor than the program for single-family homes.
Under Act 101, commercial includes multifamily dwellings such as apartment, townhouse and condominium complexes, and trailer parks, as well as businesses, offices, schools, and other institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes.
These entities are required to set up their own recycling programs with a licensed trash hauler or participate in the municipal program and to pick at least three recyclable materials from a list that includes office paper, cardboard, aluminum and metal cans, glass and plastic bottles, and newsprint.
Nearly every hauler in Lower Bucks sends recyclables to Otter Recycling in Bristol Borough. Central and Upper Bucks communities send their recyclables to the Bucks County Recycling Center in Fountainville.
Larry Snyder, owner and general manager of Otter Recycling, said the center had been processing an average of 130 tons of recyclables a day. The material is co-mingled, which means the glass bottles and jars, aluminum and metal cans, and plastic bottles are put in the same container.
"We were on board - the facility had the equipment - way before it was a mandated law," Snyder said, referring to the company's purchase two years ago of a machine capable of separating and storing the co-mingled material.
Once the material has been sorted, it is broken down and sent back to mills that use it to make new paper, bottles or cans, he said. Newspaper and cardboard are reduced to fibers and sent to paper mills, glass is broken up and hauled to glass factories, and the cans are pressed and taken to aluminum
mills, he said.
The plastic bottles are smashed and taken to plastics manufacturers, where they are used to make everything from new bottles to fiberfill for pillows and jackets to surfboards, Snyder said.
Otter also has a facility for people to bring in bottles and cans and get paid for them. At the time Snyder was interviewed, he said he was paying 44 cents a pound for aluminum cans. "That's today. The prices fluctuate just like the stock market," he said.
People who continue to use his facility after the deadline rather than put their recyclables out curbside will not be violating the state law, Snyder said.
Participation on the commercial end has been slowly increasing as municipalities rush to get their programs in place before the deadline. Businesses and apartment complexes in Bensalem Township have been recycling since January, and Doylestown Township just passed its commercial recycling ordinance two weeks ago.
And there are some businesses in Bucks that were recycling before the state mandate. Jeff Diettrich, engineering manager at Scanforms Inc. in Bristol Township, said that the printing firm had been recycling corrugated cardboard, aluminum and photo processing paper for the last two years. The company also uses recycled paper for photo processing and has been harvesting and recycling the silver used in the process.
"We never had a specific program," Diettrich said recently. "It's just something we've been doing for the benefit of the company. It's a source of revenue as well as the right thing to do."
Diettrich said the company, which employs about 200 people, recycled about 25 to 30 percent of its waste now and was in compliance with Bristol Township's recycling ordinance before it was even drafted.
"I called (township recycling coordinator) Kathleen Hoover to make sure, and she said we were fine," he said.
Rohm & Haas in Bristol also has been recycling for some time. Spokesman Brian McPeak said the company recycled about 50 percent of its nonhazardous waste.
Other companies are still in the process of establishing recycling plans. The Bradlees department stores in Bensalem and Levittown will be recycling corrugated cardboard by Nov. 1, according to Aileen Gorman, vice president of public affairs at Stop N' Shop, Bradlees' parent company in Braintree, Mass.
"Corrugated cardboard is one of the biggest factors in our operation," she said.
Although businesses and offices seem to be having little problem with their recycling plans, some apartment and townhouse complexes have found them difficult. Last month, the state Department of Environmental Resources and Bucks County officials held a seminar in Middletown for owners, managers and tenants of apartments, townhouses and condominiums.
DER spokesman Vincent Tarantino said the process of setting up recycling for apartment and townhouse complexes was not impossible.
"Recycling is complex, but it's not complicated," Tarantino told the audience.
Tarantino said each landlord should designate a recycling coordinator who was familiar with all aspects of the recycling ordinance for the municipality where the company was. While setting up the program, the coordinator should keep in touch with municipal and county recycling officials to make sure the complex stays within the law, he said.
Many of the landlords and managers attending the seminar expressed frustration and confusion with the recycling law, saying it was nearly impossible to get all their residents to comply because of tenant turnover rates.
Tarantino acknowledged that the constant changeover of tenants was a problem, but landlords could solve it by informing each new resident from the beginning that the complex recycles.
Tarantino said that he expected the recycling programs to have problems.
"You can't implement these programs for the first time and expect them to run perfectly," he said. "By no means are we looking for perfection."
Some managers also complained that the added cost of collection of the recyclables was a burden. However, Raudenbush said the added cost would be used by most haulers to reduce the cost of normal waste collection.
Otter Recycling's Snyder noted that recycling may seem to cost more now, but it will save everyone more than just money in the future. Taking recyclables out of the waste stream will slow the growth of the area's crowded landfills, he said.
"The biggest savings is in not taking that tonnage to a landfill," he said. "When a landfill closes, there's no new landfill. They just don't open up like a 7-Eleven. Every ton of trash that isn't taken to a landfill extends the life of that dump."
Despite the difficulties expressed during the seminar, some apartment managers remain optimistic. Pat Broillet, property manager of Orangewood Park Apartments in Levittown, said that the 320-unit complex had been recycling newspaper on a voluntary basis since 1988. She said an estimated 40 percent of the residents participated in the voluntary collection.
Broillet said she planned to write a letter explaining the new recycling program to residents and working with hauler Waste Automation to prepare the Dumpsters.
"I think most of our residents will comply without any problems," she said.
One complex that already recycles successfully is Creekside Apartments in Bensalem. The 1,026-unit complex has been recycling since January with enthusiastic participation from its residents.
"It's been working out very well. We were anticipating having real problems, but it's running very smoothly," said a Creekside office aide.
The DER is authorized under the state law to assess fines of up to $10,000 a day against communities that do not meet the standards of Act 101, as well as cut state aid.
But county recycling coordinator Raudenbush says he doesn't think DER will have any reason to fine anyone in Bucks County.
"I think the DER will look better on municipalities who are at least trying to meet the requirements. And I feel all of Bucks is doing that. Everyone in the county is aware of the recycling situation and is doing everything they can to make the situation better," he said.
Act 101 also requires municipalities to set up penalties for individuals and businesses who violate their recycling ordinances. Raudenbush said all mandated Bucks towns had set penalties for noncompliance within their recycling ordinances. For example, the penalties in Bristol Township are $300 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
One requirement of Act 101 that most municipalities have not met concerns disposal of leaf waste. Act 101 requires the towns to separate leaf waste as well as recyclables and prohibits haulers from taking leaves to a landfill. The leaves must be sent to a separate site to be composted under the law.
Because Act 101 did not specify who was responsible for finding a site for leaf waste, the county took on the job. Lale Byers, an environmental planner for the Bucks County Planning Commission, said the county had received eight responses to its search for a suitable site, and it recently shortened the list to four possible sites.
There is still work to be done on recycling in Bucks. But Raudenbush said he felt the county was further ahead in its efforts than most Pennsylvania counties.
"I'm impressed with the cooperation and the enthusiasm and willingness to go further than what the state mandates. They want to do it better and do more."