I sincerely appreciate the passion and commitment of those who have been responsible for the Fanwood-Scotch Plains Recycling Association's success over the past 28 years, including that of my Council colleague, Kathy Mitchell, Recycling Association Chairman Harold Clark and Recycling Center Director Alan Ebersole. They've made the current model work year after year. Now, we have an opportunity to reassess how to continue following the law and decide the best way to recycle going forward.
Over the past year, the Fanwood Council has heard impassioned pleas from our recycling officials and some citizens about the benefits of keeping the recycling center open and leaving everything the way it is. I want to share what I observe, and what I have heard, from many residents who aren't able to attend Council meetings, but are able to share their opinions with me around town and at the recycling center.
To make it clear, the recycling center is no longer self-sustaining as it was for the first 28 years. Because of circumstances beyond anyone's control, most notably the declining market for recyclables, the recycling center now requires an infusion of taxpayer dollars simply to pay its expenses. This year, this appropriation was $33,000. We are awaiting a cost projection for 2016 from the Association, but I would guess that figure will go up.
In a town that prides itself on being family-friendly and progressive, many residents ask why they have to interrupt their busy Saturdays to fill their car with trash, drive through the muddy potholes in the recycling center and wait in line to follow the law. We have working families who use their Saturdays to catch up on their lives-- taking the kids to soccer, swimming lessons, food shopping, etc-- who are forced to interrupt their day to carry out the recycling ritual. I believe there is a significant number of residents who simply don't recycle at all to avoid the hassle.
While the recycling center has afforded opportunities for scouts and other groups to mount community projects and allowed low-level violators to perform community service, the main mission of the recycling center is to follow the law on recycling. There are plenty of other opportunities in and around our town for community and volunteer service.
While a curbside service will not collect things such as electronics, scrap metal, fluorescent bulbs and hazardous household waste, Union County offers free collection points for all of these items throughout the year.
Our high taxes are a priority for me as a Fanwood citizen and Councilman. I will not support a tax increase solely to finance curbside recycling. But as I've pointed out, we are already paying for part of the current service. There is a realistic opportunity for the Council to look at the whole budget next year and see if curbside can fit in without breaking the bank. And if it turns out it can't, so be it.
Our recycling legacy has contributed to Fanwood being certified as a Sustainable Jersey community. I favor continuing that legacy by making it easier for people to follow the law by bringing recycling to them like most other communities in New Jersey. We can have curbside recycling and the Earth will not stop spinning.