The Delaware Solid Waste Authority has offered to expand its Newark recycling center to include yard waste. Courtesy of DSWA.

Changes afoot for Polly Drummond yard waste site

Ken MammarellaGovernment, Headlines

Changes are in the offing for the Polly Drummond community yard waste site, a popular site east of Newark for residents to drop off yard waste for free. Maybe it will close, with a nearby replacement. Maybe it will close, with a replacement further away. Maybe it will get dedicated funding.

And for two out of those three alternatives, people will pay for the service.

The disposal site, on Polly Drummond Hill Road, across from the Judge Morris Estate entrance to White Clay Creek State Park, “has also been abused by contractors, non-residents and illegal dumping,” the park’s master plan says. “Sediment and aesthetic concerns have increased.”

“We’re still in very productive discussions right now with the [Delaware Solid Waste Authority] right now on how we can relocate that out of the park and have DSWA take it over,” Shawn M. Garvin, secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, on May 1 told the Legislature’s Joint Capital Improvement Committee, which is often called the bond committee.

But the issue is where.

“Yes, we can open a new facility once we can find a place to put it,” said Michael D. Parkowski, spokesman for the DSWA, estimating it would take 15 to 20 acres.

The Delaware Solid Waste Authority has offered to expand its Newark recycling center to include yard waste. Courtesy of DSWA.

The Delaware Solid Waste Authority has offered to expand its Newark recycling center to include yard waste. Courtesy of DSWA.

The authority has offered to accept yard waste at its Newark recycling center, on Corporate Boulevard, a 20-minute drive to the southwest of the Polly Drummond facility.

“That option didn’t work with legislators” who toured the site, said state Sen. Jack Walsh, noting it wouldn’t provide “an equal level of service,” with, among other things, different rules about bagging.

Another issue is money. DNREC estimates it will cost $500,000 to run the Polly Drummond facility by the end of fiscal 2024 (that’s June 30). “We only have $5,000 left in the fund that we pulled out of park rehab to fund it, and that is with a $20,000 bill coming our way from our contractor,” Garvin said.

That’s why he is asking, in the future, for a separately funded line item for the facility. It’s been funded in the past through Joint Finance Committee.

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At the bond committee meeting, Garvin displayed a slide with photos showing yard waste dumped outside the entrance, when it’s closed; and a line of vehicles, when it’s open. The text says the site is prone to fires (it was closed a bit in 2023 by suspicious fires), traffic issues and dumping.

Garvin’s opening comments about the site generated laughter, Walsh said, because it’s been an issue that’s gone on so long, which is why the Legislature has tasked DNREC and DSWA to come up with a long-term resolution. “Until they do, our goal is to keep it open,” Walsh said.

Handling yard waste

“Yard waste is banned from all Delaware landfills,” DNREC writes in a page that suggests that “the best way to handle most yard waste is to compost or mulch it on-site. Larger items may need to be handled at a commercial composting site.” The page goes on to list two dozen places statewide where yard waste can be dropped off. All charge for the service, except for Polly Drummond.

Any DSWA facility would charge a fee, with the minimum being $7.50, Parkowski said.

In 2006, when the Delaware Legislature hoped to extend the lifespan of landfills by banning yard waste, the state set up three “demonstration” sites in New Castle County where people could, for free, drop off branches, brush, leaves and grass clippings.

The North Wilmington site, in Bellevue State Park, closed in 2010 after drawing complaints by workers and neighbors. It had dumping issues as well.

The site near Delaware City has been replaced by the Department of Motor Vehicles facility, which opened in 2014.

“It’s a hot topic in my district,” said Walsh, who uses it himself and says he gets calls when it will open in the spring, how late in will stay open in the fall and when it will have special days to accept Christmas trees.

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