09/02/08 — County planning ahead to meet tougher recycling rules

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County planning ahead to meet tougher recycling rules

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 2, 2008 1:37 PM

Recycling is not a major source of revenue for Wayne County, officials say. Its value is found in saving resources by keeping them out of the landfill and by doing so, extending the landfill's life span.

To that end Wayne County is continuing to look for ways to expand its recycling programs, said Simone Cato, Wayne County recycling coordinator.

The county recycled 3,483.35 tons of material from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008.

"You'd be surprised at what people are recycling," Ms. Cato said. "This one woman started recycling crayons, and it has gotten big. Elmers Glue now has a program for children to recycle the glue bottles."

The secret to a successful recycling program is to make it convenient for the public, she said.

"There is not much revenue, especially when compared to the number of employees, equipment and fuel (in the solid waste department)," she said. "We are not a moneymaker and weren't intended to be. The main thing to focus on is extending the life of that landfill."

Manufacturers want recycling, too, as a way to keep resources out of the landfill and to reduce costs, Ms. Cato said.

For example, it costs less to re-use recycle bottles than to manufacture new ones from scratch, she said.

"They are saying 20 (aluminum) cans can be generated (through recycling) with the same amount of energy that it takes to make one can from virgin ore, which is quite a savings," she said.

That, she said, is important in light of new state mandates about what can and cannot go into a landfill.

In some cases, the new restrictions do not come into effect until later this year or even next year. However, the county isn't waiting.

Oil filters and other items were added to banned items in a 2005 state law that becomes effective Oct. 1, 2009. The county has been collecting used oil for some time and already has begun collecting oil filters.

"We have had a program in place for used oil for many years," Ms. Cato said. "Think about it, when someone is changing oil what happens at the same time -- they are changing filters."

Ms. Cato was able to bundle a package for collecting used oil and used oil filters, while including a new item -- antifreeze which has been banned from landfills for years.

During fiscal year 2007-08, the county collected 30 55-gallon barrels of oil filters. Each barrel holds about 300 filters for a total of about 9,000.

"We also collected 19,675 gallons of used oil," Ms. Cato said.

The oil is recovered and sent to refiners that manufacture boiler fuel, while the filters are crushed into cubes and sent to steel mills and foundries.

The filters are collected at nine of the county's 13 convenience sites -- Rosewood, Patetown, Pikeville, N.C. 111, Mitchell Road, Dudley, Hood Swamp, Seven Springs and Indian Springs. The service is for county residents, not businesses.

The county receives some revenue on the used oil and antifreeze, but has to pay to dispose of the oil filters.

"But it is relatively low cost because of the fact we are dealing with the same vendor," Ms. Cato said. "Bundling it enabled us to increase revenue by five cents on used oil, decrease our cost by five dollars on each barrel of oil filters that is collected and add revenue on antifreeze. He also provided extra totes (larger containers ) and they are not cheap. Taken altogether it is almost a wash.

"But we are keeping it out of the landfill. We have to keep in mind that we have site attendants at 13 sites. We need to be as self-sufficient as possible and cover all the costs of running the solid waste department."

Also becoming effective Oct. 1, 2009 is a ban of rigid plastic containers. Those are containers with a neck smaller than their bodies and accept either a screw top, snap cap or other closure.

"The next thing I am trying to tackle is the plastic bottles," Ms. Cato said. "Everybody has in their head it is just plastic milk jugs and soda bottles."

However, there a many kinds of plastic containers, she said. Those include detergent, shampoo and mouthwash bottles.

Ms. Cato said people are " hung up" on the plastic containers that have either a "1" or "2" stamped on them. Approximately 95 percent of the plastic bottles are either a 1 or 2, she said. The bottles are numbered 1 through 7.

The numbering, she said, was not intended for consumers.

"It was for plastic recyclers so they will know the components for meltdown. Now we are trying to get away from them (numbers)," she said.

The new rules make for an easier system, she said.

"All plastic bottles can go so that a person does not have to decide if it goes in this bin or that bin -- it will all be commingled in one," she said.

A law that went into effect this past January requires all bars and restaurants, anybody with an ABC license selling retail on premises, to recycle all recyclable containers.

To help with the project, Ms. Cato applied for and received an $18,960 N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance grant that was used to purchase indoor and outdoor recycling containers for 50 businesses at no cost to them.

A Clinton recycling firm will pick up all of the glass at no charge and will allow the businesses to commingle the glass so that the different colors do not have to be separated.

Ms. Cato said the company has a patent for using glass in a cement-mixing process for items it is making including countertops and stepping stones.

"It was a way to reach out to businesses because for the most part, businesses are on their own. We felt this would be a real good public/private partnership to reach a hand out to them," she said.

From January through June 30 more than 112 tons of glass were collected.

Also in the works is a permanent electronic collection site.

While working with a non-profit organization in 2003 Ms. Cato established a collection program that has been held two to three times a year.

She is working with a Florida company with offices in Durham to dispose of electronic items collected in the county.

"They will come down, pick it up and provide a little revenue as well," she said.

Another recycling project could under way by the end of the week.

A container will be placed at the Wayne Opportunity Center on George Street where people may take carpet and padding, except for the red waffle rubber type, which cannot be recycled.

"It keeps it (carpet) out of the landfill and the state is going to start targeting construction and demolition debris waste because it takes up a lot of space in a landfill," she said.

There is no cost to people who drop off the carpet and/or padding and any revenue from the recycling will go to the Wayne Opportunity Center.