Whether it’s caused by residents going into pandemic spring cleaning mode or some other cause, the Allen County Department of Environmental Management says it might consider closing its nearly 30-year-old free community recycling drop-off program if items continue being left after hours.

The program’s drop-off trailers are attended by a Republic Services employee during business hours Tuesday-Saturday, said Tom Fox, director of Allen County Department of Environmental Management. “They help residents sort their recyclables when they’re dropped off and they keep the site tidy and orderly and all that. If it’s after those hours, we ask the public to wait until the next (business) day.”

The Community Recycling Drop-Off Program offers no-cost recycling services at six locations throughout Allen County.

The program had been going fine for years, Fox said. However, just in recent weeks, “we’ve really had some serious violations, and it seems to be worse at our Byron site at the corner of Lima and Carroll Road. ....The biggest thing seems to be on Sunday and Monday when the site is closed. People are not just dumping recycling. They’re dumping everything. ... There’s furniture. There’s electronics. There’s toys.”

Some items are recyclable, but should be brought during the posted hours, while others might be hazardous household waste. “Some of it is just garbage,” Fox said. “...It’s unsightly, it’s unsafe and it’s expensive to clean up, and it’s stuff that’s really not meant for these locations.”

Photos provided by the department show a couch, child’s ride-on toy and buckets of items that have been left after hours at the Southgate Plaza and former Byron Health Care Center site.

The department has an electronics recycling program and a hazardous household waste program, and most people should have access to regular trash pickup, he said. All three of the drop-off recycling, electronics and hazardous household waste programs have seen an increase in volume, possibly linked to more people being home during the pandemic and cleaning out their homes and garages, he said.

Allen County residents are asked to follow recycling guidelines and only use the sites when attendants are present because they could face fines.

“It is expensive. Republic and our department we’ve got to clean this up, and that costs money. If it gets to be a regular thing, then it really could threaten the future of the program,” Fox said.

Since China put restrictions on overseas recycling materials a couple of years ago, the U.S. market has been struggling, and recycling programs are more expensive, Fox said. In January, he requested from the Allen County Board of Commissioners an extra $169,000 for the drop-off program to extend the county’s contract with Republic Services at a significant increase in cost.

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