Residents recycling, trashing more during COVID-19 pandemic: But how much?

Rumpke employee Michael McDonald collects recyclable materials during his route Friday, April 16, 2021 in West Chester Twp. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Rumpke employee Michael McDonald collects recyclable materials during his route Friday, April 16, 2021 in West Chester Twp. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Residents across Butler County increased their recycling and trash disposal during the COVID-19 pandemic as they had more time to clean out their homes, and local officials are working to promote curbside recycling efforts to promote sustainability.

Oxford was the countywide leader in 2019 with 965 tons of recycled trash, almost 9 percent more than a year earlier. Oxford also recycled 17.3 percent of their total garbage last year, up from 15.5 in 2019.

“We’re very environmentally conscious here in our city,” said Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott, who noted Oxford often leads the county.

“To give you an example, for years we’ve provided a yard-waste pickup curbside for the residents, and for that yard waste, we grind it up and use that as mulch throughout the parks.”

A couple years ago, Oxford started a program to keep food scraps out of landfills in which a company picks it up for transformation into compost, he said.

Just the other day, a woman who’s active in Oxford requested and received permission to place a barrel at City Hall to collect fabrics for “textile recycling,” he said.

“I believe it is a point of pride” for Oxford, Elliott said. “Why put things into the landfill that can be recycled? As they say, the Three R’s — Reuse, Recycle and Reduce.”

Anne Fiehrer Flaig, solid waste district coordinator for the Butler County Recycling & Solid Waste District, said recycling is important for several reasons. It conserves natural resources, helps prevent landfills from filling faster, and makes economic sense.

“People need to look at the materials we consume, which are in our hands for a very short time, as materials that we’re stewards of,” she said. “It’s not just for us to consume once and not ever think of it again.”

Following Oxford among the cities were No. 2 Trenton, with 13.6 percent of its waste recycled; No. 3 Monroe, with 13.3 percent. Monroe in 2020 jumped ahead of No. 4 Fairfield, which had been third a year before. Fairfield homes recycled 11.6 percent. Lagging behind them were No. 5 Hamilton, at 8.7 percent; and No. 6 Middletown, with 4.4 percent.

Among townships, No. 1 Ross led with 12.5 percent recycled; ahead of No. 2 West Chester (10.6 percent); No. 3 Hanover (10.3 percent); No. 4 Liberty (9.97 percent); and Morgan (9.95).

More recycling, but also more trash

With more people working from home last year, “we saw a shift in activity from commercial recycling to residential,” Fiehrer Flaig said. “I think it was basically almost a trade-off. The drop in commercial activity was basically taken up by household recycling.”

More people were working from home, and receiving packages there during the COVID-19 pandemic. People also threw out many things during the pandemic that cluttered their homes.

Although households in the county recycled a lot more last year than in 2018 and 2019, the percentage of recyclables compared to overall trash discarded went down, because of the other things people threw away.

In 2020, households across the county recycled 15,168 tons of waste — 3.7 percent more than in 2018, and 9.7 percent more than 2019.

But because those households threw out a lot more objects last year, as a total amount of waste discarded, the recyclables accounted for 8.7 percent, down from 8.8 percent a year earlier and 9.4 percent in 2018.

ExploreButler County residents piling trash at curbs, but some suggest repurposing items

West Chester and Liberty

Fiehrer Flaig hopes to see jumps in the 2021 recycling statistics for West Chester and Liberty townships, because of county promotions of curbside recycling.

“The county is offering to underwrite the first three months of curbside recycling service for those who sign up, and you can get either a recycling cart or the red recycling bin” free, for new recycling subscribers, she said.

People recycle three times more with curbside pickup because it’s more convenient, she said.

Recycling “is incredibly affordable, when you consider the labor, the trucking and the infrastructure you have to have to offer the program,” she said.

Rumpke’s monthly fee for weekly recycling pickups is $4.75.

“We’re so proud to partner with Butler County on this, trying to encourage more people to recycle,” said Molly Yeager Broadwater of Rumpke.

Ross Twp. in recent years has contracted curbside service for their residents, “and it has been wildly successful,” Fiehrer Flaig said.

“I would love to see the townships embark on a consortium where we would combine multiple townships to do a competitive bid,” she said.

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