RIDGWAY — A St. Marys recycling center serving the residents and businesses of Elk County and beyond is looking to relocate and expand its operation, citing increased demand and an outgrown facility.
After years of expanding, the Elk County Community Recycling Center located in the Stackpole Complex at 45 Heritage Drive in St. Marys is looking to make the move into a new and larger space adjacent to its current location.
Opened in October of 2010, the current center expanded into a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in the summer of 2011 and then the entire 13,000-square-foot building.
The new location on Ceramics Street, located in an adjacent space to the current recycling center, offers an additional 7,000-square-feet. The new center is also expected to offer easier access and greater operational efficiency and carries a roughly $2 million price tag.
Elk County recycling and solid waste director Bekki Titchner said the county is pursuing grants to help cover costs associated with planning and design of the new space.
She said the added space is needed and points to growing demand for a centralized recycling service in the county.
By August of this year, the center has exceeded last year’s collection of plastic and cardboard, nearly 300,000 pounds worth. The center also processed 239,925 pounds of magazines, paper and newsprint in 2013 as well as 40,713 pounds of books and 13,243 pounds of aluminum bi-metal cans.
The center earned roughly $46,000, or $26,000 net profit, so far this year through processing of materials, some with resale value.
Titchner said as part of the expansion, the center wants to delve into processing of new materials that may yield new markets and additional revenue to help sustain the service.
“I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface on available commodities,” she said.
But Elk County Commissioner Dan Freeburg feels the county’s solid waste authority should proceed with caution, questioning whether market trends affecting the prices and revenue stream of the recyclables can support the planned expansion.
“Even if funding is found to build the new facility, there has to be a guarantee of self-sufficiency, being that the program can stand on its own and pay for itself,” Freeburg said. “This includes, of course, maintenance and operation, utilities, etcetera, into the life of the program.”
While supporting the benefits and stewardship of recycling and acknowledging a new facility means easier access, lower utility costs and more efficient space for equipment and stacking operations, Freeburg remains somewhat hesitant, describing the county’s support for the project as “cautious.”
He said a feasibility study is currently being undertaken to explore whether the expansion and relocation are likely to be successful.
Freeburg added that “all good projects and business transactions carry a certain amount of risk, (and) I believe the commissioners’ role, then, is to cautiously support the effort, but not expose the taxpayer to any such risks or liabilities.”
Titchner said the next step is to provide renderings of the planned facility to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for approval. The DEP recently approved a $50,000 planing grant for the project. It has also received the Elk County Solid Waste Authority’s application for a $215,000 grant, with $162,000 of that amount set aside for design and testing and the rest for equipment to be used at the current facility or moved to the new location.