York County’s recycling centers are phasing in a program to educate residents and encourage them to pre-sort their plastic, glass and cans.
The big, blue plastic bags they give to residents to fill with recyclables are still accepted, but if more residents pre-sort the items, it helps the centers move more material more quickly, officials said.
. The blue bags – or other types of plastic bags people use to collect their bottles and cans – gum up the works, according to Bill Crute, assistant supervisor for solid waste collection and recycling for the county.
“Originally, we gave out the blue bags and gave people the opportunity to put everything into one bag, but the recycling processing methodology has changed,” Crute said, explaining that the facilities contracted by the county to recycle the materials collected at the centers have to separate items before they can be reprocessed.
“The problem we’ve run into with our recycling customers is the bags we have clog up their machinery,” Crute said. “Some have up to 30 tons per hour of reprocessing material and to have to stop and cut the bags off the rollers slows them down.”
Glass also causes a problem when it’s processed in the same machine as plastic bottles and metal cans and needs to be separated at the plant, he said.
An earlier story reported that the county was phasing out the blue bags, but that’s not true, said Eric Rekitt, interim public works director for the county. Rekitt said Crute and attendants at the Fort East center on S.C. 160, across from the Springs recreation complex, erred in saying they would be discontinued and residents would have to sort by hand.
Some Fort Mill residents who use that center said they were prevented from depositing a bag of mixed materials – mostly plastic bottles and metal cans – into the same bin they’ve always used. The Fort Mill Times on Thursday saw residents at Fort Mill East hand sorting. A sign on the bin they previously used to deposit bags of mixed materials said the bin was closed.
Rekitt said that was a case of miss-communication between York County Public Works and the centers.
“Anybody can still bring anything they want in the blue bags and toss them in (the bin),” Rekitt said.
“The option to sort the materials has always been there and if people want to do that, that’s great, but it’s not required. I don’t want to discourage anybody from recycling and I don’t want to lose anyone who’s already recycling because they think they have to sort,” he said.
At peak efficiency, the county expects to take in between $800,000 and $900,000 a year for its general fund by selling the material it collects to reprocessing facilities, Crute said. Some of the larger centers, such as Baxter, average 100 cars an hour, Crute said.
The easier it is for a plant to reprocess the material, he said, means the more it will pay the supplier.
“It’s like any other product,” he said. “The higher the quality, the more (money) you can bring in.”
Soon, all of the county’s 16 recycling centers will feature new signs deigned to educate residents about proper recycling.
“Basically, they will be labeling every bin that’s out there and have pictures of the actual recyclables to show what’s acceptable for that bin,” Rekitt said.
Some residents who use the Fort Mill East center said they were annoyed when they were prevented from tossing their bag in the bin as usual last week.
“In a state where recycling is optional, they should make it easy to recycle,” said Edgar Rhee of Fort Mill, who uses the Fort Mill East center.
“Make it too difficult and people will just put everything in the trash. The blue bag was easy; Having to separate your recyclables is cumbersome. And yes, the complete lack of notice was unnecessary. It would have been nice to know ahead of time,” Rhee said after a trip to the center when sorting was required.
To Rekitt, the important thing is getting residents to keep material that can be recycled out of the waste stream that leads to the county landfill, or a landfill in Columbia where some local trash goes and for which the county has to pay tipping fees.
“(Resident) can throw all the mixed recycles in the bag or empty the bag (and sort), but we’d rather get it than not get it,” Rekitt said.