As officials prepare to go out to bid on its next waste and recycling contract, its Environmental Steering Committee held the second of four meetings to educate the public about the township's options and their benefits.
The township's current contract, which expires at the end of April 2013, allows for unlimited garbage, weekly recycling and making residents separate their recyclables like newspapers, cans and glass.
And there's money in that trash. Act 101, the state regulation overseeing local recycling and hazardous waste ordinances, determines how much grant money a municipality can receive for compliance.
For example, Allentown's recycling percentage stands at 38 percent of the total waste generated, which helped the city recently land a $400,000 grant.
But with the township's recycling percentages sinking to below 20 percent, Township Recycling Coordinator Cindy Oatis is stressing the importance of having a single-stream system where all recyclables such as glass, newsprint, paper and cardboard are placed in a single container.
The top option, Oatis believes, is going to a fully automated system.
This system, she said, has trucks picking up trash using a mechanical arm, thus reducing the crews from three people to one, and uses 96-gallon plastic containers with wheels and lids to contain garbage from spilling over or blowing away.
"This is the best option," Oatis said. "There's evidence nationwide to support it. It contains waste and provides more of an incentive for recycling. We also would get some income from recyclables and grants based on the percentage we recycle. It's the only way to contain costs and lower the amount of trash."
Oatis said that waste costs are between $60 and $65 a ton and that the township has received recycling grants of $160,000 with grants totaling over $2 million.
The Palmer Environmental Steering Committee has been assigned the task of researching, evaluating, and seeking public feedback regarding various trash and recycling options for the upcoming waste and recycling contract bid.
The specifications for this bid will go out during the spring or summer of 2012, with the new contract beginning May 2013.
"It's important to give you as much information as possible," committee co-chairman Tom Ganssle said. "We need to present something to our supervisors real soon."
Residents asked whether one hauler would still pick up their garbage and recycling (yes), where they could store the toters if there's no room in their garage (the side of the house) and if the fully automated system is cheaper. (Oatis said the township alone would save costs on replacing containers. She said about 500 are replaced each year at a $5,000 cost.)
Two more meetings are scheduled at the Palmer Memorial Library from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 25 and May 23.