Many cities have offered recycling programs to residents for a number of years. As the recycling industry evolves, some municipalities are changing the way they collect the recyclables or are forming unique partnerships in an effort to cut costs, be more efficient and keep more trash out of landfills.
The cities of Simpsonville and Hartsville have formed public-private partnerships with recycling leader Sonoco Recycling.
Hartsville kicked off its recycling program in April with 500 blue recycling roll-carts to replace the old bins. Through the new program, the city is offering curbside, single-stream recycling to residents and local businesses. The single-stream process means participants can toss all of their paper, plastics and metals together in their cart, as opposed to sorting them. The materials then are separated for reuse at Sonoco’s facility. This allows the city to use its waste disposal trucks to collect the recycling, vastly increasing efficiency, said Hartsville Public Information Officer Donald Quist.
The City of Hartsville replaced its old blue recycle bins with curbside,
single-stream roll-carts. (Photo courtesy of the City of Hartsville)
Officials with Sonoco and the City of Hartsville are hoping the new program will increase recycling levels by about 30 percent over the next six years. The program provides residents, businesses, churches and schools with the opportunity to increase their recycling voluntarily. It also expands the types of materials accepted for recycling. Though the program still is young, the results so far have been positive, Quist said.
“We have seen a definite increase in recycling over years past, and we hope this initiative will continue this trend,” he said.
Sonoco is sponsoring the program and funded the roll-carts. “By working with Sonoco, we increase our resources and expand the reach of our programs. They are not only a benefactor but a community partner,” Quist said.
Sonoco Recycling has relationships with more than 150 municipalities in the U.S. - predominantly in the Southeast - and that number is growing daily, according to company spokeswoman Sarah Anderson.
The City of Simpsonville started its recycling program with Sonoco in September, said Simpsonville City Administrator Russell Hawes. Simpsonville had to discontinue its old recycling program when costs climbed too high. The old program required residents to separate materials, then a truck would collect the recyclables, workers would sort them by hand and take the sorted recyclables to different facilities, Hawes said.
The new program allows residents to mix recyclables in one 95-gallon roll-cart. It’s all collected on the same truck, compacted for space and placed in a holding facility. Sonoco employees pick it up, take it to their facility and sort it all there for recycling, Hawes said. The new program is more cost-effective and encourages participation among residents.
“Garbage in participating households has basically been cut in half,” Hawes said.
Charleston County began rolling out its “All in One” recycling pilot program earlier this year. That program also allows users to put all of their material in one roll-cart. Officials there hope to see 40 percent of the county’s waste diverted from the landfill.
Charleston County’s recycling program goes a step further - it has a composting program for food and other organic material. The compost then is sold at the landfill for $2 a bag, or $10 a ton. Its compost facility was the first in the state permitted by the Department of Health and Environmental Control to conduct a food waste composting pilot program and to use compost as an alternative daily cover in the landfill. (Landfill operators must cover the trash in the landfill at the end of every day to prevent odors and risks to public health. Traditionally it is covered with soil, but compost is another alternative.)
The City of Mauldin’s recycling program has been in place since 1998. In response to the City Council’s goal of increasing recycling, the city staff conducted a public education campaign last fall, said City Administrator Trey Eubanks. The campaign promoted the benefits of recycling, explained what could be recycled and provided the opportunity for residents to exchange their 20-gallon bin for a 65-gallon roll-cart.
The program is available to all residents and those businesses whose trash is collected by the city. Eubanks said the program has been successful and that the city has seen an increase in recycling.
The City of North Augusta was one of the state’s pioneers in recycling. The city built a facility in 1992 to process single-stream recyclables, said Sonya Lindley, administrator of the North Augusta Sanitation Department. Under North Augusta’s recycling program, residents receive a roll of blue bags every 13 weeks. Residents fill the bags with recyclables, then place the bags in household garbage cans for collection.
Residential garbage and blue bag recyclables are off loaded for processing
at the North Augusta sanitation facility. (Photo courtesy of North Augusta)
“In addition to making it easier for our residents, the collection of blue bag recycling in roll-carts with household garbage eliminates a special curbside recycling collection route,” according to Lindley. “The program eliminated the costly need for an automated collection vehicle, personnel and high costs for maintenance, fuel and additional transportation costs to the facility.”
The city also provides blue recycling dumpsters for businesses, Lindley added.
Once the recyclables are collected, they are sorted by hand at the facility by city employees and a crew of inmates from the Lower Savannah Work Release program. The inmate labor crews assist on sort lines, baling and loading operations, and in cleaning the facility, Lindley said.
Residential garbage and blue bag recyclables are off-loaded for processing at the
North Augusta Sanitation facility. (Photo courtesy of the City of North Augusta)
The use of inmate labor is not prevalent, according to the Municipal Association’s Risk Management Services staff. The statutes in South Carolina give the city the ability to cover these inmates for workers’ compensation but limit the amount of recovery an inmate can have under the statute.
Overall, the recycling industry, like so many other businesses, has felt the chill of the economic climate. Commodity prices have fallen globally for recycled materials, and many communities cut or scaled back their public recycling programs in the face of budget constraints. However, economic experts predict that the recycling industry will rebound as commodity prices stabilize and businesses and local government find new ways to adapt their green practices.
Sonoco’s Anderson said the company is always working on innovative and creative ways to improve recycling markets. The expansion of commodities accepted will rely on further investing in state-of-the-art equipment to be able to process more, educating consumers about recycling, and also developing more “end use” markets for materials such as glass, she said.