Polk recycling rate, revenue surges

Published 2:17 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

&bsp;About 400 pounds of the “wrong stuff” pulled out of a recycling bin at the Polk County Waste Transfer Station.The county reports that it received $10,017.69 for recycling items through the first six months of this year, compared to just $2,094.27 during the first six months of 2007. Revenue rose dramatically even though the tonnage recycled over those periods was similar, and the&bsp; market prices for collected materials remained steady.

Cindy Walker, a member of the Polk County Recycling Committee, says the difference is that buyers are willing to pay more when they see the county is serious about its recycling and is building a program that provides a reliable source of quality recyclables.

The comnpanies that buy recycling materials are willing to pay more for bins that are free of non-recyclable items since it takes them less time to sort through them.

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Polk County has hired recycling center attendants to help residents properly sort items and reduce contamination of recycling bins. The county has also launched public education efforts aimed at raising awareness about recycling.

Walker points out that the rise in revenue from an improved recycling program has been coupled with a savings at the landfill. She says the county would have spent $27,138.29 to put the 359.4 tons its now recycling &uot;into a hole in the ground.&uot; &bsp;

The tonnage recycled by the county has risen about 17.6 percent in recent years, according to county reports. Including tonnage recycled by Tryon, household recycling rates have increased about 26 percent in recent years.

The total tonnage from Polk County Transfer Station and the Town of Tryon has increased from 364.17 to 491.47 tons.&bsp; &bsp;

Polk County recyclables increased 306.19 to 359.4 tons –

Tryon recyclables increased 57.98 to 132.07 tons, an increase of 127 percent.

Tryon&39;s total includes 63.48 tons of recyclables collected at curbside and 68.59 tons collected at the town&39;s recycling convenience center. The town set up the center recently to encourage more recycling and limit the waste it must pay to haul to the landfill.

&uot;Working together, the Polk County Transfer Station, the Polk County Recycling Advisory Board and the community at large have made a tremendous impact on the diversion of waste and tax dollar savings for all of Polk County,&uot; says Walker, who also helped set up the Tryon recycling center. &uot;It&39;s quite amazing what we have accomplished in one year of recycling here in Polk County.&uot;

In addition to the local governments, other entities are also doing their part to reduce waste going to the landfill.

Walker says all bars and restaurants with ABC permits in the county have been recycling since Jan. 1, 2008.

The Blue Ridge Barbecue Festival has put considerable attention toward increasing its recycling and the effort has paid off. The festival reported a 20 percent increase in recycling this year so it is now diverting about 65 percent of its waste to recycling.

Other festivals, including Coon Dog Day in Saluda and the Fabulous 4th in Columbus are also increasing recycling, and The Green Creek Heritage Festival, to be held next week, is starting recycling this year.

In addition, recycling has been started at Roger&39;s Park in Tryon and at the Tryon Country Club, and White Oak Village and Laurel Hurst are now recycling both containers and paper.

Polk County High School, Polk County Middle School and Tryon Elementary recycled approx 45 tons of paper in 2007-2008.

Polk County High plans to offer recycling at football games beginning with this fall season. Harmon Field now recycles and employees in county offices have chipped in, recycling 7,980 pounds of material.

More efforts are already being planned to raise the county&39;s recycling rate further.

The county is current pursuing a grant for a portable recycling trailer, which would make recycling more convenient for residents throughout the county.

The county says having a single location at the transfer station in Mill Spring forces many residents to drive considerable distances to get there.&bsp; A mobile recycling trailer placed in convenieint locations in the county would save residents time and fuel costs and likely encourage more recycling.

The Town of Columbus is ready to open its own recycling center early next month. The town had dropped its curbside recycling service, but decided to open a recycling center after residents said they want an option for recycling.Is this item recyclable? Sorting through what&squo;s acceptable at Polk recycling center

Editor&squo;s Note: The following is a public information article from the Polk County Recycling Advisory Board.

Do you ever get frustrated wondering what is and what is not recyclable? As volunteers of the Polk County Recycling Advisory Board, we can relate.

The confusion as to the correct materials to recycle is not totally a result of misinformation. The correct information is available. However, the information frequently changes.

Therefore it is perfectly normal to get frustrated. We do. But until there is a better market for the materials we all want to recycle, we must adhere to the market demands of what is acceptable.

These market demands have and will continue to change, as more and more communities become wise to the value of recycling. So we have to be patient and keep attuned to what is being accepted at the current time.

What is acceptable for Polk County is dictated by the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Greenville, SC, which buys our recyclable stuff. That&squo;s right. They buy our stuff!

The money made selling recyclable materials has grown since we have paid attention to the quality of what we are sending them in addition to sending them more material. Thus, in the last few months, recycling is actually profiting the County. This is an immediate cash benefit above and beyond all the very important environmental reasons to recycle stuff.

However, when we send a load of recyclables to the MRF that contains stuff they do not want (because they have no buyer/market for it), we make less money.

In some cases, when the load is too contaminated, we are charged by the MRF to take it off our hands (and dump it in their landfill). What a waste!

So what this all means is we have to pay attention to what we send to the MRF in order to maximize the value of the recycling effort. Therefore, when unacceptable materials go into recycling bins, it is more than an inconvenience for someone down the line. It costs the taxpayers money.

We urge all of the citizens of our county who have made the effort to recycle materials, to continue to do so. Remember that recycling is an emerging market and that more recycling industries are cropping up everyday, so the market demands will change.

Please, when doing your part for our community, remember to adhere to the current rules. For those who have not participated in recycling, give it a try. It is a real strong way to support your community!

Next week we will begin to clarify just what is recyclable in Polk County.