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Universal Recycling

Question: What are the requirements imposed on waste collectors – either private hauling companies or cities and towns – by Delaware's new universal recycling law?

Answer: Under Delaware’s universal recycling law, waste collection service in Delaware, whether provided by a municipality or a commercial hauling service, will soon consist of (1) removal of "trash" for disposal in landfills and (2) collection of "single stream" recyclable items. Single stream recycling is a system where all traditional recyclables can be stored and collected in the same container – no separation of recyclables is required. This change became effective for single-family homes as well as restaurants and bars on September 15, 2011; multi-family residential homes, like apartments, will be provided the service by January 2013, and all businesses will participate by January 2014.

The waste hauler requirements for single-family homes include: delivery of a container for storing recyclables that is adequately-sized for encouraging customers to recycle; and providing collection of recyclables on a schedule of at least once every other week.

For restaurants and bars that provide on-premise sales, waste haulers are to provide a container for recyclables adequately-sized for the premise being served and to collect the recyclables on a schedule that prevents the containers from overflowing and otherwise causing a nuisance.

For multi-family residential buildings, waste haulers must provide the complex with an appropriately sized, centrally located recyclables container(s) ideally in the same area as the complex’s waste disposal containers. Local governments may require multi-family complex owners to provide their own recyclable collection containers consistent with local requirements. Owners of multi-family residences must provide information to residents at least once a year.

Question: Are all multi-family residential complexes subject to the January 1, 2013 deadline?

Answer: The January 1, 2013 deadline applies to apartments, condominiums, and other three or more attached residences where centralized community trash collection is provided. Multi-family residences that have individual trash collection for each residential unit were subject to the September 15, 2011 deadline for single family residences.

Question: What are the responsibilities of multi-family complex managers and owners?

Answer: Owners of multi-family complexes with centralized community trash collection services must provide their residents with instructions on how to participate in the recycling program at least once per year. Waste haulers serving the multi-family complexes will notify the owners and managers of the recycling services and how to participate in advance of providing the service.

Question: Why is universal recycling in the best interest of Delawareans?

Answer: Delaware’s recycling rates have historically lagged behind those of surrounding states. As a result, landfills in all three counties have had to undergo expansions that are costing residents and businesses tens of millions of dollars per year in higher disposal costs. Increased recycling saves land as well as reduces the cost of developing new landfill space in the future. Recycling also creates jobs necessary to collect the recyclables, separate the recycled materials and to manufacture products from the recycled materials. And the most efficient system for recycling – and the one that is the lowest cost for everyone – is the system in which everyone participates, hence the requirement that all waste haulers provide recycling services to their customers.

Question: I’m a single family resident. Am I required to recycle?

Answer: Your waste collection provider will be required to provide you with a recycling container and to service that container at least once every other week if you set it out on collection day. Homeowners are not required to put recyclable materials in the container, any more than they are required to put anything in their trash can. However, the charge to the homeowner by the private hauler or municipality will be the same whether the homeowner chooses to use the recycling service or not.

Question: I’m a single family resident. Do I have to keep the recycling container?

Answer: You are encouraged to keep the cart and give the recycling program a try. The experience in many areas where recycling has begun, both here in Delaware as well as nationally, is that even people who are not initially interested in participating find themselves taking part. That being said, you are not required to keep the recycling container. However, as mentioned above, you cannot return the cart and opt out of the recycling service for a cost savings and as a result receive a benefit over those who participate in recycling.

Question: Will my trash bill increase?

Answer: In 2010, the fee that your waste hauler pays to dispose of trash at the landfill increased by nearly one third in order to help pay the debt for the landfill expansions mentioned above – and that cost increase has been passed on to consumers over the last year. That increase is not related to the implementation of universal recycling, but it is exactly this kind of landfill expansion cost that increased recycling is designed to avoid in the future. Because the recycled materials will not have to be disposed in our landfills and thus will not be subject to the new, higher landfill fees, there will be disposal cost savings for haulers and municipalities. These savings help to offset the cost of implementing universal recycling.

It is true that some waste haulers in Delaware are choosing to raise their prices to consumers now that they must provide recycling. But it is important to understand haulers are not required to do so under the new law, and some are choosing not to charge for recycling services. Some haulers, who are accepting state grants to help with the startup costs of recycling service, are not allowed to raise rates from now to March 2013. So, if you are able, you are urged to shop around to find the waste hauling service that suits your needs best and gives the best price for the services offered. A list of all the waste haulers offering universal recycling services in Delaware can be found at

Question: What is going to happen to the recycling drop-off sites/igloos?

Answer: For now, they will remain in place, though as curbside recycling increases, the state’s approximately 175 drop-off sites will be evaluated for participation and removed from service as usage drops. There will always be some sites throughout the state to accommodate that portion of the population which prefers to manage their own waste (i.e., self-haul). While these drop-off sites are convenient to those that use them, drop-off participation rates are very low when compared with comprehensive curbside recycling, and the drop-off sites also are costly to operate.

Question: What if I have more questions?

Answer: Please call the recycling staff at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control at (302) 739-9403.

Bottle Deposit/Fee Transition

Q: What is the bottle recycling fee?

It is a 4¢ fee to be paid by retailers to the Division of Revenue on certain types of beverage containers. It replaces the former 5¢ deposit, but unlike the deposit, the fee is not refundable. The fee is paid by the bottle retailer into the Delaware Recycling Fund which will be used to expand recycling programs in Delaware, namely through a recycling grants program (see below). The fee is temporary in that it will only last until December 1, 2014 or before if the fund reaches a maximum. At such time the fee would automatically expire.

Q: What types of beverage containers are subject to the 4¢ fee?

In general, soda or beer in a glass or plastic bottle that is less than two quarts (two quarts is slightly less than two liters) is subject to the fee. The fee does not apply to these containers if they are an on-premise sale, that is if they are sold for consumption on the premises of the retailer. These are the same types of containers that formerly carried the deposit.

Q: How do retailers pay the fee?

Please visit for more information, or call the Division of Revenue at 302-577-8778.

Q: Where and how can I return my deposit bottles?

You can no longer redeem bottles in Delaware. The grace period for redemption ended January 31, 2011. There has been no deposits on bottles in Delaware since December 1, 2010.

Yard Waste

Q: Who is affected by the yard waste disposal bans?

All Delawareans. Most recently affected are residents of Sussex County, Kent County, and lower New Castle County. A ban has been in effect in northern New Castle County since 2008.

Q: Is the yard waste disposal ban a law, and how is it established?

No, it is a permit condition between DNREC and the DSWA for the operation of each landfill. Yard waste is not permitted in the landfills themselves, but those facilities do still accept separated yard waste and manage it as mulch or compost. Several other facilities also accept yard waste. Your waste collector may require you to keep yard waste out of your trash so that they do not face paying a fine upon taking it the landfill.

Q: Why ban yard waste from landfills?

Yard waste is a significant portion of the waste we discard and it is easily recyclable. Saving landfill space will help keep disposal costs down. Managing yard waste creates valuable products such as mulch or compost that are in demand for a wide variety of uses. Many outlets exist to recycle yard waste and individuals can even recycle it on their own property. We do not want to continue landfilling yard waste while importing mulch and compost products.

Q: What are my options for managing yard waste?

You have three main options:
• You can manage your yard waste as compost or mulch on your own property.
• You can take your yard waste to a drop-off facility. Several facilities accept yard waste throughout the state. Look for a list of options by county on the website.
• You can hire a service to collect your yard waste. This can be through your waste collector, landscaper, or another business depending on how regular you need a service and your own preferences.

To give another perspective, some communities have contracted out for their yard waste collection service. Other communities have established private yard waste drop-off sites.

What is recyclable in Delaware?
Please visit the "What's recyclable in Delaware?" webpage.

Recycling Grant Funding

Q: Can you explain the grant program?

The Universal Recycling Grant and Low Interest Loan program will be funded for up to the next four years via the bottle recycling fee (see above). The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control plans on opening several grant and loan opportunities during that time. You can learn more about the grants at

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