Recycling center closing this month

Curbside pickup linked to Susquehannock's shutdown after 32 years

January 04, 2004|By Matt Kasper | Matt Kasper,SUN STAFF

After 32 years of service and recognition as the oldest continuing recycling center in the country, the Susquehannock Environmental Center on North Tollgate Road will close this month.

A combination of waning profits, declining service and overall fatigue finally took its toll, causing the board to vote to close the center, said Clifton Dowling, head of the board of directors.

"As a board, we're tired," Dowling said after noting that since the country curbside pickup program went into effect in 1994, the center has seen a steady decline of recyclable material. The pickup program serves an estimated 77,000 Harford County households.

"In a way, we're victims of our own success," Dowling said. "We've evolved to the point where we are still relevant but now have a decreasing role."

According to statistics on the Maryland Environmental Services Web site, Harford County had a 53 percent waste reduction rate in 2000 because of recycling.

Cowling said that rate has remained consistent over the years. Susquehannock accounts for about 2 percent of that total, according to Frank Henderson, environmental services director.

Bob Chance, founder of the Susquehannock Environmental Center, and longtime worker Bill Rowe also said the fluctuating market for the materials, such as aluminum, was having a particularly damaging effect on the meager profits needed to offset operation costs.

"It [the recycling market] has ups and downs like the stock market," Rowe said.

Despite problems, many people acknowledge that the site remains a significant community resource.

"To me it was never about profit," Henderson said. "It was about getting people to recycle - it's still a popular site."

"We've come here for a few years," said Andrew Slaich of Forest Hills. "Because I have my truck, we come here with quite a bit."

Some people pulling in to the center regarded it as superior to the curbside recycling program.

"Our things get left out there [on the curb] all the time," said Denise Scharph, who said living in the Tollgate Road area also made it easy to use the site.

"This is the only one that's convenient for me," said Abingdon resident David Davis. After reflecting on the closing of the center, he said relying on the curbside program will be more difficult.

"They'll be times when they won't take all my stuff," he said.

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