Princeton Township to close its recycling shed

Use by residents has declined significantly over the years, according to a study.

By: David Campbell
   The Princeton Township Committee decided Monday night to close the recycling shed at the Princeton Shopping Center as of March 1.
   Township professionals recommended the move. They argued that use of the shed by residents has declined considerably over the years as use of curbside recycling through Mercer County Improvement Authority has increased, as has the cost to run what has become a redundant service at the shed.
   "It’s gotten to the point where financially we just can’t justify continuing with it," said Township Engineer Robert Kiser.
   The committee agreed by consensus, with Committeewoman Casey Hegener absent, to cease operation there beginning March 1.
   In past years, the shed processed about 50 percent of recycling by township residents, but today handles only about 5 percent, according to an analysis prepared jointly by Mr. Kiser, Public Works Superintendent Donald Hansen and Recycling Coordinator Janet Pellichero.
   Total tonnage of material recycled at the shed not including cardboard dropped from about 256 tons in 2000 to 108 in 2002, according to the analysis.
   At the same time, the shed has been more heavily used for recycling cardboard, which comprises about 50 percent of material now recycled there. Most of it comes from shopping center merchants.
   This, combined with after-hours drop off of debris from people living in municipalities other than the township, has created unsightly conditions at the facility and diverted Public Works resources to cleanup and disposal there that could be better used elsewhere, according to township professionals.
   Meanwhile, the unavailability of grant funds and the softening of the recycling market due to the high success of county-operated curbside collection programs have increased the cost of running the facility. The cost to recycle materials through the shed, exclusive of cardboard, is now about $600 a ton, according to the analysis.
   Township Administrator James Pascale said Monday night that at one time the recycling shed had been an award-winning facility that was ahead of its time, but now has become a duplicate service that primarily subsidizes recycling by shopping-center merchants.
   Mr. Kiser said the shopping center and its merchants are exploring options for their recycling after the shed closes. Options include sharing a cardboard compactor used by McCaffrey’s Princeton Market, installing portable containers at the shed site, or processing recycling materials off site.
   The attendant at the shed will be reassigned to other Public Works Department duties, according to the staff report.
   Mayor Phyllis Marchand said discussions have been held over the years about the feasibility of continued operation of the shed by the township. She said the current discussion "came to a head" after the holiday season following a large volume of complaints by residents of unsightly conditions at the facility.
   Mayor Marchand said she was comfortable with the township professionals’ recommendation to close the shed, noting, "We probably will be getting fewer calls from residents about the mess at the shopping center."
   Committeeman William Hearon noted that while he used the facility often when he first moved to the township, in recent years he said he hasn’t used it at all.