Programs for recycling in jeopardy after possible grant funding cuts

St Marys, Elk County, Pa. - More than 700 tons of material goes through the Elk County Recycling Center throughout the year. The machines inside the center are worth $250,000, all purchased by state grants. 

Elk County solid waste authority coordinator Becky Titchner oversees the center. "We try to run this facility like a business. We're very frugal with our dollars, but those grant monies really help the job get done," explains Titchner.  

However, Elk and Clearfield officials say grants for recycling centers and programs have been drying up over the years. "The grants probably make up 70-80% of our revenue stream," agrees Clearfield County solid waste director, Jodi Brennan.

Now, the recycling programs could face another hit. A state wide recycling fee may not be reinstated by Pennsylvania Legislators. It's known as the Act 101 recycling fee, and it's set to terminate on January 1, 2020. Titcher says Act 101 is vital to the recycling center, "It has helped get us equipment. It was helped fund our collection programs every year." 

It's a two dollar fee per ton most Pennsylvania residents may not even know they pay, because it's usually included in a garbage fee. However, it helps sustain free programs like hazardous material collection in Elk County.

Titchner explains that if the fee isn't reinstated, they may have to come up with alternative options to bring in profits to fund programs. "Communities will actually charges residents 50 cents to 75 cents a pound for these materials they bring through the door. We've never ever done that." 

Without the proper place to recycle, the directors say people could resort to dumping. Something Brennan says is already an issue within the community. "We have a significant illegal dumping problem to begin with, we're going to see even more illegal dumping" 

Titchner has already reached out to her local legislators, asking for the fee to be discussed. "This whole issue in Harrisburg is troubling,"  says Titchner. 

The Department of Environmental Protection announced in late September it will not longer be accepting application for hazardous waste education or municipal solid waste planning grants because the General Assembly has failed to reauthorize the two dollar fee. 

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