Polk County approves funding for mobile recycling unit

Published 1:37 pm Friday, June 19, 2009

The county received an $11,000 grant from the Polk County Community Foundation and a $15,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Pollution Prevention for portable recycling. That funding, along with an estimated $15,000 per year from the solid waste disposal fee will be used to fund the mobile recycling program.

Following is information regarding the mobile recycling program that Polk County officials submitted to obtain the grants:

After in-depth study of Solid Waste and MRF reports, a Transfer Station Recycling Participant Survey and a Graduate Project Feasibility Study by Holly Bullman, Polk County Local Government&squo;s Recycling Advisory Board has determined that the rural nature of our county&squo;s recycling program will be best served by a &dquo;mobile&dquo; recycling unit.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The goal of the Polk County Portable Recycling Project is to increase the recycling participation in the County through the establishment of portable recycling stations that will be strategically located for public use. This goal is based on the principle that participation is the driving force behind the economic efficiency of every recycling program. Convenience increases participation.

The percentage of Polk County&squo;s recycling diversion in relation to overall solid waste tonnage is very low. Of the 21,229.70 tons of solid waste collected and transported from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008 only 1,220.51 tons (household, white goods and other metals) were recycled. This represents only a 5.7-percent recycling rate. The national average as reported by the EPA is 32.5 percent. If we were to follow the national rates, we would be recycling 689 pounds per person. However, in Polk County, we are producing approximately 2,122 pounds (a little over a ton) of solid waste per person per year, yet we&bsp; recycle only 122 pounds of that material.

While the county&squo;s one recycling center located at the transfer station on Highway 9 North is an efficient operation, it is it is not convenient to many areas of the county. Under this new program, a publicly used mobile recycling trailer will be regularly placed along well-established travel corridors in Polk County. The convenient locations will reduce citizens&squo; need to travel long distances to voluntarily participate in recycling. Further benefits of this program will include the reduction of fuel and time needed by citizens as they drive shorter distances to recycle their materials.

One driver facilitates multiple collection opportunities.

The public recycling trailer will be staffed at all times by attendants who will assist the public in proper recycling procedures, distribute information and promotional material, and maintain a clean collection site. These actions will result in increased quality and quantity of recyclable material, hence increasing our revenue. The increased recycling revenue will then offset the cost of our overall solid waste program.

Collection opportunities will be placed at the schools for paper, cardboard and drink containers. Our one driver will collect the items weekly. We estimate (based on a three-week collection experiment at PCMS) that at least 18,000 additional pounds of paper and 7200 pounds of co-mingled containers will be diverted from the landfill with the placement of these trailers. Thus saving the Polk County School System a portion of the solid waste and recycling fees that they are now paying. At the same time, the program will accentuate the curriculum requirements for environmental education, while giving the students the opportunity to practice 21st century stewardship.

In addition to increasing participation while easing financial constraints of the public and the schools, the mobile nature of the project will eliminate the NIMBY&bsp; (&dquo;not in my backyard&dquo;) problem often associated with solid waste/recycling collection sites.

Churches, civic groups, and community centers can encourage recycling by sponsoring the trailer at special events. The mobility of this collection system will carry the recycling message throughout the County.

Over time, Polk County&squo;s recycling program will be positively affected by the reduction of contamination, increased awareness, and a stronger culture of responsibility and stewardship.

Neal Hall, Polk County Solid Waste Manager, will oversee the day-to-day operations of the Polk County Portable Recycling Project. Mr. Hall, his staff, and members of the RAB will handle signage, route establishment, and attendant training. Leaders of the Tryon Elementary School Recycling Committee and civic volunteers will assist in educational program development and implementation.