by John Celardo and Tom Kranz
November 2011 and July 2016
PHOTO: Alan Ebersole, far left, in an archival photo.
In 1986 the State of New Jersey mandated recycling for all its municipalities and Mayor Patricia Kuran tapped Alan Ebersole to head up the effort in Fanwood. For thirty years, he proudly and enthusiastically expanded and extolled the virtues of recycling in the only centralized community recycle operation in Union County.
The Fanwood Recycling Center shared a two-and-one-half acre site on North Avenue with the Fanwood Public Works Department. Every Wednesday and Saturday, Alan orchestrated a flow of cars in and out of the center that discharged a variety of recyclables ranging from glass bottles, metal cans, plastic bottles, plastic containers, newspapers, cardboard, clothing, used oil, electronics, light metal, and home appliances, and even fluorescent light bulbs.
Alan, a sixty year resident of Fanwood and a veteran of World War II, is the personification of those whom Tom Brokaw immortalized by calling them “the greatest generation.” Alan was honored for having devoted 75 years to the Boy Scouts of America Troop 172 in Westfield’s Ben Franklin School from which 105 young men have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. Alan is a founding member of the Flintlocks, an organization of local elder male citizens who devote their Thursdays year-round to constructing buildings and other infrastructure at Camp Winnebago, a Boy Scout facility in Rockaway, NJ.
Alan’s leadership skills brought together a rare consortium of 25 civic groups embracing five local municipalities, the Union County Youth and Family Services, and even the local school system in his unrelenting effort to bring the necessary labor and its accompanying rewards in moving the Fanwood Recycling Center to ever higher levels of success.
For almost its entire 30-year existence, the Fanwood-Scotch Plains Recycling Center sold its collected recyclables to various vendors with the profits going back into our community in the the form of grants to various organizations and equipment for its own operations and that of the Public Works Department. The profits were also used to pay stipends to the various community groups who helped sort the recyclables during Saturday hours.
The fortunes of the Recycling Center began to falter in 2012 when the center’s treasurer, Joan Ayala, pleaded guilty to stealing $15,000 from the non-profit Recycling Association’s funds over a four year period. In subsequent years, the market for recyclables declined considerably to the point where the Recycling Association required additional funding from the Borough’s taxpayers to keep afloat. It was no longer a self-sustaining entity.
In 2016, following two years of lengthy deliberations, debate and a well-attended town meeting, the Fanwood Borough Council voted to enter into a shared services agreement with the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority to begin curbside collection of recyclables at a set cost for a period of at least three years. The Fanwood-Scotch Plains Recycling Association ceased operations on July 29th, 2016.
Mayor Colleen Mahr and the Borough Council are deeply appreciative of the service to the Borough the Recycling Association, its founder, board and volunteers have rendered for thirty years.