The state Recycling Public Advisory Council has months of work ahead in efforts to implement statewide curbside recycling.

The state’s Recycling Public Advisory Council has months of intensive work ahead of it to lay groundwork for the implementation of a formidable plan for providing every household in Delaware with curbside recycling service.

The so-called universal curbside plan, signed into law by Gov. Jack Markell in early June, mandates all Delaware trash haulers offer voluntary recycling services to their single-family home customers by Sept. 15 of next year. Haulers will have to provide recycling pick-up to multi-family residences and apartment buildings by Jan. 1, 2013, and to businesses by Jan. 1, 2014.

Senate Bill 234, the legislation that created the mandates, also requires the development of a detailed reporting system that will allow the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to monitor the recycling program.

Most notably, SB 234 dismantles the state’s 5-cent bottle deposit program and replaces it with a 4-cent fee that goes into effect on Dec. 1 and is set to expire in 2014. Proceeds from the fee, estimated at $22 million, will fund a program of grants and loans haulers can apply for to offset their recycling start-up costs.

The advisory council, in conjunction with DNREC, is charged with formulating the reporting requirements and the grant and loan program rules, as well as generating a comprehensive public awareness campaign to ensure those in the trash business and average residents understand what the universal recycling law does.

At the council’s meeting in Dover Aug. 18, the gravity of the task became readily apparent.

“We have deadlines for very major items that affect a lot of people,” said council chairman B.J. Vinton. “We have an enormous amount of work to get done as a council.”

The council was created in 1999 by an executive order from Gov. Tom Carper, then preserved by subsequent executive orders under Govs. Ruth Ann Minner and Markell. Senate Bill 234 permanently established the council and expanded it from 11 to 16 members, including seats for the soda and alcoholic beverage industries, the waste hauling industry, the restaurant industry, the League of Local Governments, and the Delaware Solid Waste Authority. The council also includes five members from the general public.

During the meeting, the council designated subcommittees to tackle the reporting requirements, bottle fee disbursements and public outreach campaigns.

Jim Short, DNREC environmental scientist, said the council needs to work with him and his staff to generate guidance on those items by December.

For the reporting requirements, Short said the council and DNREC will have a place to start, since the council already contracts with an outside vendor to collect and aggregate recycling data according to federal guidelines.

However, recycling firms weren’t required to comply with reporting requests, which means the information gathered was inconsistent.

To a certain degree, that means the council will have to rethink the whole process.

“It’s who’s got to report, what they’ve got to report and how they’re going to report it,” Short said.

Vinton said he wants to make sure the new reports, which haulers now are required to provide, are thorough but not burdensome.

“My goal is coming up with the least arduous and easiest way to get the information we need,” he said.

By far the biggest challenge for the council will be figuring out how to hand out grants and loans to recycling haulers from the bottle fee proceeds.

Short said it’s vital to get those rules established quickly, since the majority of the money likely will be handed out next year in advance of the single-family home pick-up requirement.

The council expects to have a draft plan for the grant and loan program for its September meeting, but revising the draft will take time.

The grant and loan program also faces funding uncertainties, Short said.

“The new bottle bill is designed to generate up to $22 million. That was an estimate of what four cents would generate,” he said. “We hope we’re close, we hope we’re right.”

The funding from the bottle fee also is tied to the council’s outreach efforts.

Senate Bill 234 allows 10% of the fee’s proceeds to be used for administration, including public awareness campaigns.

But if the $22 million estimate doesn’t hold, or other administrative costs are high, that could limit the amount of education the council could provide to the public.

“We’ve got a lot of resources that 10% has to address,” Short said. “It may not be that big a piece of change.”

Pat Todd, who has been a member of the council since it was formed, said the outreach component is just as important as the grant and loan program or the reporting requirements.

“I think that’s going to be a big challenge,” she said. “So much work needs to be done to inform the public.”

She also said the council is going to be hard-pressed to handle all the things it has to put in place.

“I’m not sure we’ll be able to do a complete job on every one of these things,” she said.

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