Carbon County's recycling program may be kicked to the curb if it continues to spill red ink.

County commissioners at a public meeting Thursday said grant money for the program has dried up this year, sales of recyclable materials has collapsed and the county has been forced to dip into reserves to make up the shortfall.

The program anticipates expenses this year of $324,441 and revenues of $260,315, leaving a $64,126 shortfall, according to a 2010 budget analysis of the program. The revenues from sales of recyclable materials dropped from $110,375 in 2007 to an anticipated $5,328 this year. Grant monies have plunged from $203,404 in 2007 to nothing this year.

"The most important thing is, that's using up monies that were in reserve," said Commissioners Chairman William O'Gurek. "So what we're looking at as we prepare for the 2011 budget is, with no reserves and no grant monies this year, and costing us money to get rid of commodities, whether we want to absorb a couple of hundred thousand dollars deficit out of the general fund tax monies to operate the recycling program."

The market for recyclable materials dropped dramatically beginning in 2008, due to a worldwide economic downturn.

But for the county, the operational deficit is just the tip of the landfill: the trucks that pick up and haul the material are also becoming money pits.

"Our equipment is at the point now where we have to replace it. And when you buy one of those garbage trucks, you're looking at $250,000," said Commissioner Charles Getz.

"It might be a half million or more to keep the program running," O'Gurek said.

He said commissioners expect to discuss the matter in detail during upcoming budget talks.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein worried that if the county discards the program, people might just dump their plastic bottles, metal cans and cardboard boxes in the woods or alongside the roads.

"It's along the roads now," he said. "It's pathetic."

Nothstein also admonished those who ignore the recycling rules posted at the drop-off bins.

"It's not a matter of them not being able to read, they just don't care," he said. "They just think it's a place to dump your garbage. They're dumping the cans in with the bottles, and mixing things up. They're just too damn lazy to do anything."

The trash talk started when Barbara Franzosa of Albrightsville complained to commissioners about the bags of trash and other litter left at the county recycling bins that sit tucked back off Route 534 at the 903 intersection.

The bins are on land she leases to the county.

Franzosa blamed Penn Forest Township residents, who do not have trash pickup, for the mess.

Penn Forest Supervisors Chairman Paul Montemuro said that's not true. He said his township's recycling bins, located next to the trash transfer station, where residents bring the their trash, are always kept tidied by municipal workers.

The bins are behind a locked gate, with hours of operation posted.

Kidder Township does have curbside trash pickup, Franzosa said.

"It's not Kidder Township residents doing this," she said.

Franzosa called for a state law that would require municipalities to provide trash pickup.

"It's a sanitary problem, it's a health problem," she said.

Franzosa also said visitors to the area dump their trash after spending the weekend at vacation homes, and other people from Effort in Monroe County find the bins a handy drop-off for garbage.

"It's been getting worse over the past 10 years," she said.

Franzosa asked county Solid Waste Director Duane Dellecker to remove the bins.

"Yesterday, there were so many garbage bags there people couldn't reach over them to reach the bins," she said.

Dellecker had his crews clean the area. But on Thursday, bags of trash and battered cardboard boxes again littered the site.