Del. lawmakers approve money for Delaware yard waste site

Popular yard waste site will remain open for Delaware residents despite initial state plans to shut down the Newark area site.

A waste site stretches toward a line of trees under a partly cloudy sky.

The Polly Drummond yard waste site in Newark will close in June to return to its natural state. (Zöe Read/WHYY)

For years residents of northern Delaware have used the Polly Drummond Waste Site to dispose of yard waste which cannot be recycled, free of charge.

In March, residents learned the Newark site would close on July 1. But after much pushback from the community and lawmakers, the drop-off site will remain open until at least January.

“The community overwhelmingly wants to keep a site they feel is a valuable service for what their tax dollars provide,” said state Rep. Mike Smith, who worked to keep the site open.

Polly Drummond was one of three sites the state opened through a pilot program to transition disposal away from Wilmington’s Cherry Island Landfill as it neared capacity. It has remained a popular drop-off site since 2007; the other two are already closed.

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State officials want to close the site because the land was originally set for park purposes. It is scheduled to be restored to its natural state as part of the master plan for the adjacent White Clay Creek State Park.

Officials said the spread of the invasive spotted lanternfly pushed them to move faster toward closure because the bug could hitch a ride on yard scraps, travel to the park and feed on native trees.

“It was a temporary site, and all the other temporary sites have been closed,” said Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin. “It is in state parkland, which is supposed to be parkland not an active yard waste facility, there are invasive species,” he said. “Should the state be involved in yard waste business at all? There’s a lot of reasons, but first and foremost, this was a temporary thing set up in the state.”

But residents were concerned because there are no other free sites nearby that accept large amounts of waste.

DNREC made an agreement with Smith and other elected officials to keep the site open for an additional six months as long as the General Assembly could secure funding. The General Assembly was able to do so in its Bond Bill, which got final approval June 30.

“We had given everyone ample notice it’s closing, but we are in the middle of yard waste season, so providing a little bit of extra time for folks to work out options for next year isn’t a bad thing,” Garvin said.

Smith, who said he received more than 1,000 calls and emails from constituents about this issue, will continue to work on finding a new waste disposal location in the meantime.

“I think everyone is agreeable on some of the issues the site has — from motorist safety, from oversight of commercial vehicles coming in the site, even out of state license plates,” he said. “I think if you find another location you can create a better private public partnership option where you could charge out of state license plates a fee, Delawareans would have a free service and you could charge commercial vehicles.”

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