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Contractor says he can't afford to continue recycling town's trash


Curbside recycling has become too much of a good thing in Sykesville. Participation has increased so much that it may end a four-year partnership between the town and its recycling contractor.

Mark Billet, owner of Sykesville Recycling Center, told the Town Council Monday that sharp increases in handling costs have made the operation unprofitable. He will not renew his contract when it expires June 30, he said.

"Curbside recycling is killing us," Mr. Billet said. "Shipping and handling costs are so high that I can't get any money for most items."

Although he gives the town high marks for its recycling effort, he said he cannot afford to be part of it.

"Recycling is an environmental plus," he said. "And, look what you have saved on landfill fees."

Sykesville, the only town in the county that hauls its trash instead of hiring contractors, began curbside collection of recyclables in October. Previously, residents had to take items to the center.

Mr. Billet said he would stay at the Sandosky Road center until the town can make other arrangements.

"I am not going to pull out and leave you all with nothing, but I am not interested in renewing the contract," he said. "I can stay on a while, but not indefinitely."

Mr. Billet said he makes a profit on recycled aluminum, copper and brass, but glass and appliances -- white goods -- usually are a loss.

"There is no market for glass, not even enough to cover shipping costs," he said. "Some stuff just barely pays for a load and I'm working for nothing."

The curbside collection and the corresponding increase in volume also has made operating the center "much more labor intensive," he said.

"Residents are really participating," Mr. Billet said. "But, we have to sort through a much greater volume."

Mr. Billet leases three containers, which each cost about $5,000, for the different separated items. He keeps them outside his 700-square-foot building and said if he had the space, he would add three containers.

He has found that it is more cost-effective to wait until the container is full to ship it. Depending on the contents, it may be several months before a 40-yard container is ready for shipment to a buyer.

"If I ship smaller loads it costs me more," Mr. Billet said. "But, I still have to pay the same monthly rent for the containers and they take up a lot of space at the center."

The closing of Hoods Mill landfill also has increased volume at the Sykesville Center, especially for white goods.

Last month, the center handled about 28,000 pounds of white goods.

Randy Hughes, who runs the town sanitation department, said Sykesville is recycling about 20 percent of its trash each month.

"It would be a real hardship to lose the center," he said.

The state requires the town to recycle and it will continue its curbside program.

"We are still going to recycle in the most practical and efficient way," said Matthew H. Candland, town manager.

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