County looks forward to getting recycling center up and running

After five years of planning, a new Venango County recycling center will open next month at the former Crawford Area Transportation Authority location near Venango Regional Airport.

A ribbon cutting is planned July 16, said Erik Johnson, the county’s recycling and solid waste coordinator.

“A lot of people want to do the right thing and recycle. They are thinking about the long term,” Johnson said.

He said the center will make recycling more available to everyone in Venango County, especially residents in rural municipalities that don’t have a recycling program.

“It’s been a challenge to meet the demand for recycling, especially from people who move back from more urban areas where recycling is more normal,” Johnson said as he reflected on his 12 years as the county recycling coordinator.

The difference between the center and dropoffs in municipalities is that the center will be manned so as to discourage illegal dumping, Johnson said. He said dropoff sites throughout the county closed because of illegal dumping.

The focus of the center will be on traditional household recycling items such as plastic, paper, cans and cardboard, Johnson said. He hopes to phase in glass as well.

Johnson said the center won’t accept vinyl siding or other construction materials.

Four of the recycling bins at Two Mile Run County Park will be relocated to the center, leaving two bins at the park, Johnson said.

The center will process paper and cardboard to generate a source of revenue, Johnson said. The county will contract with a hauler to recycle plastic and cans, he added.

Johnson said he is talking with an Erie area hauler about picking up glass at the recycling center. He said glass is a contaminant when it gets mixed in with other recyclable materials.

Johnson said the key to recycling will be having a consistent program and educating people.

“Education is key to let people know what can be recycled,” Johnson said. Otherwise you have “wish recycling”- when people try to recycle things that can’t be recycled, which leads to clogging recycling machines and other issues, Johnson said.

Special collection dates for hazardous household waste and electronics will be held once a month through ECS&R, the company the county has contracted with to host quarterly recycling collection days at the Cranberry Mall.

In addition, ECS&R will collect hazardous household waste and electronics at the center once a week, tentatively on Fridays, Johnson said. Those collections won’t offer a discounted price for hazardous household waste.

“Hopefully with growth, there will be opportunities for public/private partnerships and job creation,” Johnson said.

“It’s been a long process…I think the recycling center will benefit the community as a whole,” Johnson said.

After including a recommendation for a recycling center in the county’s five year plan in 2015, the county received a $345,502 state grant for a recycling center in October 2018 with the stipulation the facility be paid for by January 2021. That deadline was later extended until June 2021.

The county considered multiple sites, including the former Sears Automotive center in the Cranberry Mall. Cranberry Township supervisors rejected that proposal after discussions at several meetings.

In June 2020, the county settled on the CATA bus garage site near the airport, but some of the work had to wait until CATA moved its fleet to the new multimodal transportation hub in downtown Oil City.

Johnson said the county has received another $350,000 grant from the Department of Environmental Protection to be used at the center over the next three years.

More space will be provided to process and store material, a loading dock will be added, and more equipment will be purchased.