Columbia County Changes Recycling Fees

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Columbia County Changes Recycling Fees

According to Columbia County Deputy Administrator Glenn Kennedy, Green Programs Manager Jenny Hinson is pretty good at what she does. The proof, he says, can be found on the bottom line.

“She’s increased revenues this year from $11,000 to now a confirmed $37,000 for this year,” he says. “That’s a sizable increase.”

With the addition of a new recycling fee structure, they hope to increase revenues even more, though Hinson emphasizes the main goal is to make sure as much recyclable material is diverted from the landfill as possible.

Columbia County has two permanent recycling locations. One, on William Few Parkway near the State Patrol office and the Health Department, has been open for approximately five years, while the other, located near Riverside Elementary School off of Hardy McManus Road, opened in January 2013.

Though the county has shown a commitment to recycling, it wasn’t until recently that it made a profit.

“In the beginning, we were paying someone to take it,” Hinson says. “We just had hard containers that we were collecting the material in, and it was a break-even point for both of us. Using the company’s containers, they were not charging us to pick up material or charging us a hauling fee. Nobody was paying any money, but no money was coming in.”

boxes2That changed with the purchase of bailers, which bundle material for efficient distribution.

“Now, with the bailers, we can sell the commodities to different brokers,” she says.

The Riverside facility was built with the bailers installed, but the William Few facility was retrofitted to handle the machines a few months before.

“Currently, we’re selling our cardboard, our #1 and #2 plastic and our aluminum, and we’re actually at a point now where we can sell our loose paper and scrap metal as well,” she says. “So we’re able to sell the products that before we were not able to sell because of the way we were having to collect them.”

Another milestone for the program was when they were able to start accepting glass, which also occurred in January 2013.

Along with a new fee schedule, the county is also opening up the recycling centers for the collection of so-called “white goods.” Once the new schedule goes into effect, people will be able to drop off washing machines, dryers, water heaters, stoves and microwaves for $5 a piece.

Hinson admits there are other ways to dispose of these items, but says she hopes people will put some thought into how they’re getting rid of them.

“You can take them to the transfer station (on Columbia Road), but you’re going to pay a higher fee,” she says. “Or you can take them to the landfill (Richmond County) where you’re still going to pay a little bit of a higher fee. We wanted to make our fee competitive and start drawing people to recycle rather than throwing them away.”

The biggest change will be in how televisions are collected. Previously, the county charged $10 a set to accept them, but because of changes in industry standards, that will soon change to 30 cents a pound, which will increase the cost of recycling for most sets, given the weight of some of the televisions that are out there.

“We see some large ones,” she says. “I don’t know how in the world they got those in their houses or how those houses were still standing afterward.”

The make up of the televisions makes recycling expensive.

“There’s just not enough material in a TV to offset the cost of disposal,” Hinson says. “So the venders are having to switch their fee schedules from a set fee to a per-pound charge.”

She says they’ve decided keep the cost at 30 cents a pound rather than to try to make any additional revenue, though she says she has heard that Best Buy will take television sets for free up to a certain size.

“So if somebody doesn’t want to pay the 30 cents per pound, we have no problem with that as long as they’re still doing something responsible with it.”

The changes will go effect immediately after commission approval, which is expected to be in early July.

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