Ohio Recycling Center Now a Reality

Jeff Wilhite's dream is finally coming true: A new Akron center for businesses to recycle hazardous materials will open on Oct. 25.

Jeff Wilhite's dream is finally coming true: A new Akron center for businesses to recycle hazardous materials will open on Oct. 25.

Wilhite, Akron's deputy planning director, has been working on BizMat for small businesses for nearly nine years.

"Finally," he said with a sigh. "It's been just an unbelievable journey.... If it was a bad idea, it would have died years ago."

Patterned after Summit County's household hazardous waste collection center in Stow, BizMat will be run by the nonprofit Ohio Organization for Recycling and Reuse.

The business recycling facility is strongly supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio EPA. It will handle cleaning materials; coating materials, including paints, stains and shellacs; machine and motor oils; fertilizers; insecticides; and fluorescent bulbs. It also will recycle computers, television sets and most batteries.

Firestone Country Club is one business that's been waiting for BizMat to open.

Brian Mabie, Firestone's director of golf course maintenance, said the country club is looking to get rid of out-of-date chemicals, including fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.

The club also has at least one 55-gallon barrel that may contain mineral spirits, Mabie said, but no one is sure what it is because it's been in storage for years.

"It's a great idea," Mabie said of the new center. "The fees are very reasonable. You can now get rid of toxic chemicals and be responsible at the same time.... It will be a winner."

As a two-year pilot project, BizMat will be housed in a historic, city-owned building in South Akron. The four-story building, at 1085 Sweitzer Ave., was Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.'s first tire factory in Akron and also was once part of the Brown-Graves Lumber Co. complex. It's being leased from the city of Akron for $1 a year.

The city has spent more than $600,000 to refurbish 16,500 square feet of the building with diked floors, special sprinklers, floor sealants, air locks and plastic containers to contain potential spills.

The city intends to keep the building for use as an industrial incubator when the pilot project ends.

At BizMat, the materials will be collected and recycled by Indiana-based Heritage Environmental Services, the company that also manages the Stow recycling center. The plan is to recycle 80 percent to 85 percent of the waste collected.

Officials initially are anticipating 50 to 100 vehicles per day at the business recycling center. The Stow center gets 200 cars a day, but it is only open two days a week.

The materials drop-off fee will be $95 per car or pickup truck load. That will be a major saving for companies because getting rid of enough hazardous waste to fill a car trunk or the bed of a pickup truck can cost $300 to $500, plus a per-pound fee.

About 55 percent of the fee will go to pay Heritage to run the center, with the balance going into a separate fund, Wilhite said.

Money from that fund will be used to repay the $600,000 to the city of Akron for the building renovations, he said.

Additional funds will be set aside for use in cleaning up contaminated sites.

Most of the waste collected will be shipped out of the Akron center within seven days.

Wilhite was head of the Summit-Akron Solid Waste Management Authority in December 1996 when he suggested setting up hazardous-waste recycling for businesses. Initially, the plan called for two business recycling centers: one in the Akron area and another in the Cleveland area. But a site for the Cleveland center has not yet been found, Wilhite said.

BizMat will not accept waste from large chemical users. The center is for companies that use no more than 220 pounds of select toxic chemicals per month.

Wilhite said he has no idea how much waste the center might collect, but the goal is to get 10 percent to 15 percent of local businesses involved.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News