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To restart recycling, county must clean up its trash

SoVaNow.com / July 03, 2019
Halifax County’s recycling vendor would like to resume the processing of loads that until recently rolled into company’s plant in Chester, but only on one important condition.

“I told them if they couldn’t get it clean, don’t bring it in,” said Tad Phillips, vice-president of TFC Recycling, which has done business with Halifax County for the past six years.

The relationship between the county and its vendor was put on hold after several loads of recyclable materials from Halifax were rejected in a three-month span this spring. Phillips and his workforce have a task that few might enjoy: separating out recyclables from trash and waste products that contaminate the usable stream.

Until recently, trucks arrived roughly twice a week from Halifax County with loads of recycled material, which Phillips’s crew would buy after they saw the contents dumped onto their floor. If someone mixes trash into the loads, TFC typically charges a $30-$50 per ton fee to separate it out.

“If there is trash in the load, I pull it out and throw it away. Then we recycle the material,” Phillips said.

But sometimes there’s either nothing to salvage or so little material left uncontaminated that Phillips is forced to reject the load completely. The problem can be food wastes mixed in, or liquids. It takes more than a little bit of contamination to ruin an entire load.

“It’s normal in our industry [to have unusable loads]. There may have been an instance where a load was rejected. That would have been the exception, not the rule.” Phillips said.

In the case of Halifax, however, over the spring months, TFC has had to reject multiple loads completely.

“It’s only been in the last three months [that we’ve had problems],” Phillips said. He added, “It only has to happen once or twice.”

After multiple rejections, Phillips directed the TFC salesperson who handles the county’s account to call Public Works Director Ricky Nelson and warn him to stop bringing recycling until the quality of the loads improved. Nelson relayed the warning to County Administrator Scott Simpson, who pulled the plug on the recycling program in April.

Simpson recounted the conversation: “He [Nelson] got the call from the company that the load we had submitted was no good, and that we had been cut off from recycling until we’d cleaned up our loads.”

After being rejected, the truckloads of recyclable materials that Halifax had shipped to Chester were dumped in a landfill.

Now the issue is back in Simpson’s court. At the direction of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, he is working with a committee to design a new education campaign that aims to reduce the amount of trash going into recycling bins. That committee, which held its first meeting June 25, has suggested a list of reforms that Simpson said he hopes to implement by August.

Supervisors have expressed support for Simpson’s plan.

“I think everything’s a possibility,” board chairman Dennis Witt said of potential changes to the county’s recycling program. “You have to look at the money and the solutions and see what’s effective.”

After reviewing a number of ideas, the recycling committee is recommending changes that include:

» improving signage to tell citizens what may and may not be recycled,

» repainting recycling bins in yellow to clearly distinguish them from garbage bins

» reducing the number of collection sites that accept recycling, bringing it to just five or six.

“I believe it will weed out the ones [people] that just throw garbage in,” Simpson said. He said he did not expect recycling enthusiasts to drop out. “I believe the citizens that are committed to recycling will continue to recycle and will shoulder the burden to go to one of these sites.”

The sites will likely be in the Town of Halifax, South Boston, Clover, Volens, Virgilina and Turbeville, because these are the county’s population centers, Simpson said.

While the Halifax plan boils down to reducing the number of sites and raising awareness, a number of other options have been considered by the committee, and Simpson said he will keep these in mind as potential long-term plans.

“We will explore other alternatives to move forward,” he said.

He has been in contact with administrators in Mecklenburg County and the City of Danville, each of which rely on prison labor to help lower the costs of recycling. Simpson said a similar plan may be possible in Halifax. He also said that the committee has considered dividing the streams of recycling, a move that has shown success in other regions.

“We thought about painting a [collection] box brown and calling it paper and cardboard only,” Simpson said

But the committee ultimately decided not to go this route. The problem? Limited funding and insufficient storage space.

According to Simpson, dividing the streams of recycling will require separate handling and shipping for each type of recyclable, multiplying the number of trucks running up the highway to Chester from one to four or five. Additionally, trucks would fill up slower with individual streams, thus requiring Halifax County to store the loads till they are completely filled — something it is unable to do.

For much this same reason, Simpson said, the county has not been in the position to make runs to Chester with only the recycling stream collected by the Town of Halifax. Halifax has a curbside recycling program that produces cleaner loads, albeit smaller ones.

“The amount that they [Town of Halifax] collect does not make a five or six ton load to take on a truck,” Simpson said.

Multiple TFC Recycling representatives, including Phillips, have said that the best way to clean out the loads is to have paid staff monitoring the collection sites. This could also be done through a curbside recycling program, but the end result is that each system relies on someone to sort through recyclables and remove contaminants.

Kathy Russel, in charge of educational outreach at TFC Recycling, said, “It’s always good to have a manned facility and not an unmanned facility. When you have unmanned convenience sites, people can put anything and everything they want.”

Due to the cost,Simpson said this isn’t something Halifax would consider.

According to Simpson, it would be too costly to hire new county employees at roughly minimum wage. Simpson gave an example where he would hire employees for $8 to show how costly it would become to watch the sites. At Simpson’s $92 per day for 12 hour shifts, the employees would make $644 per week per site. This would come out to an additional $33,488 per recycling site. These numbers are only the costs per hour, with no benefits included, and across five sites, this number would jump to $167,440, almost ten times the cost of the program as it is.

The county will begin sending trucks back to Chester when Simpson feels satisfied that the county has done its part to improve awareness. He hopes to have trucks running again before the August meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

Although Simpson ended the program with no information provided to the public, he says community recycling is worth continuing.

“I think recycling is very important, if the proper materials are recycled,” Simpson said.

He challenges county residents to improve their own habits while the county looks for longer term solutions to the program’s shortcomings.

“At some point the citizenship should have some ownership,” Simpson said.



***

What materials can be recycled? TFC Recycling accepts aluminum cans, plastic bottles, mixed paper, steel and tin cans, glass bottles and jars, empty and cleaned food boxes, cardboard, newspaper, magazines, cartons, junk mail, and phone books.

They do not accept anything with food waste on it, plastic bags, electronics, styrofoam, plastic bubble wrap, wood, grass clippings, needles, paint cans, lightbulbs, or toys.



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53

Comments

Halifax County Taxpayers YOU are funding this with a surcharge so don't but this BS by the new county administrator Simpson that there isn't funding available. Just take a look at neighboring Charlotte County who has all manned facilities, the use roll-off boxes at eash center, with one for cardboard, one for tires, one for large white wastes and appliances and one compactor box for household trash. They are a smaller locality that are doing it right, step up BOS and put your big boy pants on and do what needs to be done to fix this recycling issue BEFORE you fill up the current regional landfill in Boydton, VA and are back asking residents to pay for a brand new landfill. The only trash that needs to be cleaned up is the one's running the county and it's administration.

Comments

A possible approach with most important being:

1) Ongoing and thorough education/training of on-site staff as to acceptable recyclables;
2) Ongoing education of residents as to acceptable recyclables; and
3) Securely fenced off recyclables-only area within all manned locations.

On-site recyclables personnel responsible for:

1) BEFORE ADMITTANCE performing inspection of each container for acceptable recyclables;
2) Declining admittance of drop-offs containing unacceptable recyclables, and
3) 24-7 security of recyclables-only area.

Last but not least:

Development/implementation of scaled monetary bonus schedule recognizing on-site personnel whose ongoing performance largely contributes to a viable recyclables program.

Comments

This is so sad. There are a lot of successful recycling stories in other counties or states. I don't understand how administration could blame on people when they are taking tax money. It's admin's job to educate people, guide people and advocate this issue, isn't it?


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