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Illegal dumping threatens recycling program

COUCH: Jen Rankin removesa brown loveseat that was dumped illegally overnight last Thursday at the Solid Waste Management District’s main office on Manchester Avenue.

by ANDREW MACIEJEWSKI - amaciejewski@wabashplaindealer.com

The executive director of Wabash County’s Solid Waste Management District says she is running out of options to stop people from illegally dumping items at the department’s recycling drop-off stations across the county.

Executive Director Jen Rankin says constant abuse of the site will leave her no choice but to enforce the $10,000 fine and Class A infraction for anyone caught dumping unacceptable items in the department’s dumpsters.

The Solid Waste Management Department’s board of directors is considering closing the sites down and only allowing drop-off during business hours at a central location, Rankin told the Plain Dealer on Friday.

Rankin and a bookkeeper from the department hauled away a brown couch and loveseat left outside the district’s drop-off site at 819 Manchester Ave., Wabash, on Friday morning. A resident reportedly dropped the living room set off overnight.

“If people do want to continue to keep the cost down, they need to let me know when this stuff is going on,” Rankin said. “They have to be my watchdogs. I can’t be here 24 hours a day.”

Rankin says these trips are becoming more common. She has taken daily trips to drop off sites, picking out a range of unacceptable items from unopened bags of Doritos to soiled diapers.

“How can you think that I can recycle a dirty diaper?” Rankin said. “I can’t do that.”

The site is set up to allow residents to drop off recyclables such as collapsed boxes, aluminum foil, aluminum cans, glass, paper products, plastics as well as tin and steel cans. The labels, caps and lids should be removed, and cans and bottles rinsed.

The site does not accept auto glass, tempered glass, Pyrex, drinking glasses, mirrors, windows, trash or construction materials like shingles, siding, toilets and sinks.

The department’s main office, located at 1101 Manchester Ave., Wabash, also accepts chemicals, paint, tires, appliances, electronics and hypodermin needles, but these items are not accepted at the other drop-off sites.

“We have all kinds of avenues where we can help people,” Rankin said. “So this irresponsible behavior is exactly that, irresponsible behavior.”

Every time items are dumped illegally, Rankin and her office workers have to find someone to cover their business, close up shop or put on white lab coats and gloves to safely haul away the material on their personal time after the business closes.

“Let’s say someone threw a bunch of bottles of acid in there, and then they went in the back of the truck and the truck compacted it. Where do you think that acids going to go? All over the ground,” Rankin said. “It’s going to splash. It’s going to spray on that worker. I mean, it’s very dangerous.”

The Solid Waste Management District has programs to recycle many different hazardous materials such as chemicals, mercury, batteries, medications, poisons and corrosive materials, but these items must be properly contained and are only accepted at the district’s main office.

Used hypodermic needles are also accepted as long as they are put into rigid, plastic and enclosed containers.

“All you do is drop them off and leave, so I don’t’ care who are you,” Rankin said. “So if it were for illegal substances and not diabetic or something, we’ll take anything – anything like that.”

Rankin says she will use her resources to assist anyone who needs help getting rid of something.

“If you have a problem waste, call me,” she said. “I have tons of resources and connections and I might be able to figure something out for you.”

Indiana mandates the Wabash County Solid Waste Management District to recycle 50 percent of all trash generated by the county, and Rankin says she needs help to keep the program going.

“The fact of the matter is, we go out of our way to help. So please, please start – everyone else go out of your way to help me a little bit. Help maintain this program, meet our recycling mandates and don’t make the program go away.”