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MILLERSBURG -- Misuse of the county's recycling bins is prompting some changes that, in the end, could bring criminal prosecution to violators.
The Holmes County commissioners recently met with county solid waste director Brian Summers, Holmes County Prosecutor Sean Warner and Republic Services commercial supervisor Mike Pumphrey to discuss signage, security and legal options.
The meeting comes on the heels of gross misuse of the bins countywide, where drop-off sites are located in Hardy Township, Glenmont, Holmesville, Berlin, Walnut Creek, Mount Hope and Clark. In total, 46 single-stream bins are available throughout the county.
In the week following Christmas, bins in all locations, especially Hardy Township, were overflowing with not only recyclables, but garbage. At the Hardy Township location, all 10 bins were emptied two days before Christmas. Less than a week later, they were filled ... with piles of discarded recycling and trash -- including toys, furniture and household trash -- extending out several feet from each container.
Pumphrey brought several samples of decals that could be placed on the bins, better describing acceptable materials and emphasizing the ban on garbage.
As to the size, the commissioners agreed, "The bigger the better," said Commissioner Rob Ault, also noting multi-colored pictures also would encourage compliance.
Pumphrey said he will use the commissioners' suggestions to have new signs made.
The commissioners also agreed to have signs made and installed at both entrances to the Hardy Township location. The signs will not only clarify that bins are for recycling only, but make users aware that violators will be prosecuted.
The notification, coupled with installation of motion-activated cameras that are equipped with night vision technology, are likely to deter misuse of the facility, said Summers.
Video footage also can be used to identify and prosecute violators, said Warner, noting those who place garbage in the recycling bins or who fail to place all materials within the provided receptacles are guilty of littering.
If convicted, those found guilty of littering, a third-degree misdemeanor, face a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail, according to Warner, who said photos of violators, their vehicles and license plate numbers will become valuable evidence in prosecution.
Not everyone who uses the recycling program is a violator, according to Commissioner Joe Miller, who estimated 90 percent are in compliance. But those who do misuse the recycling bins create problems and added expenses for the county, which must mitigate the issue before recyclables are removed by Republic.
Miller said he would like to see the criminal penalty include an obligation that violators provide cleanup services.
That, Warner said, can be ordered at the discretion of the court.
The security measures will initially be implemented at the Hardy Township site, which is located near the former children's home along Hardy Township Road 323. This location generates an estimated two-thirds of the recycling collected, according to Miller, who said the county may later consider beefing up security at the other locations.
In all, it's a plan designed to promote continued proper use of the program, he said, explaining, "I'm a firm believer in recycling. Recycling is a great thing."
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.