Friday, April 25, 2014
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Too much recycling? 'Free market gov's' empty landfills worry Wall St.

Moody's may downgrade bonds

Too much recycling? 'Free market gov's' empty landfills worry Wall St.

UPDATE: See GOVERNOR below.

EARLIER: Moody's Investors Service has threatened to downgrade the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, currently rated A2, because the state isn't dumping nearly as much lucrative trash for local towns in its Cherry Island Landfill and other waste sites as it used to.

The state dumps have suffered "substantial declines in tonnage since 2007, from over one million tons, to 675,000 tons in fiscal year ending June 30, 2012," writes Moody's in a new report.

"The authority expects tonnage to stabilize in the 600,000 to 650,000 tons range in the near term.

"A large part of the decline since 2010 is due to increased recycling efforts through state bill that prevented the authority's direct participation.

"Declines have also come in general waste reduction efforts by households."

If Delawareans don't start throwing out more garbage, DSWA has the power to raise cash through a real estate tax. Or it could raise dumping fees -- which could drive business elsewhere.

On the upside, Moody's adds, there's plenty of room in Delaware's landfills.

GOVERNOR: Gov. Jack Markell's spokesman, Brian Selander, traces DSWA's recycling issues to this provision in Delaware's recycling law:
 
"Effective no later than September 15, 2011, the Authority shall cease providing curbside recycling services, including yard waste collection..."  Leaving the job to private haulers and the scrutiny of the Recycling Public Advisory Council. 

The law has boosted private-sector contractors. See this list of curbside residential pick-up firms locals can choose; http://www.dswa.com/universalRecyclingServices.asp. Compare it to the choices in your PA or NJ neighborhood.

One of the small firms on the list, Brandywine Waste Services, was started by a guy in my (worn suburban Wilmington) neighborhood with a single truck, going door to door seeking customers. Three other services compete for my neighbors' business. Result: I'm paying less for trash hauling than I did in the 1990s.

Markell, says Selander, "is a free market governor."

That'll work, at least as long as the people's landfills can still pay down their debt...

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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