Local recycling programs face obstacles
by Eddie Burkhalter and Laura Camper
Star Staff Writers
Jan 15, 2014 | 6562 views |  0 comments | 122 122 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A recycling bin between Noble Street and Winn-Dixie in Anniston, with trash piled up at its base. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
A recycling bin between Noble Street and Winn-Dixie in Anniston, with trash piled up at its base. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
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The state’s recycling industry generates jobs and millions in revenue each year, but some local recycling programs are struggling with public participation and a lack of education.

A proposed curbside recycling program in Anniston and Oxford has seen few people sign up for the service. The Calhoun County Commission's recycling program, meanwhile, fields complaints from businesses over trash left at collection bins. And Heflin recently found itself with trucks full of recyclables and no place to take them, though that may soon be resolved.

Oxford Councilwoman Charlotte Hubbard and Anniston Councilwoman Millie Harris began working together late last year to start the curbside recycling program in their cities. The waste management company Republic Services mailed applications to residents in November. The company requires that 800 households register before the program can begin, and charges $5.50 per month for the service.

As of January only 52 households had signed up; 40 in Anniston and 12 in Oxford.

“It’s very disheartening,” Harris said. “We’ve got to get out and get aggressive with that.”

Harris worries that will fill area landfills too quickly without the service, and rob the state of money and jobs.

“If we want to have the image of a progressive city we’re going to have to implement it, just like we did with the smoking ban. We’re going to have to start acting progressive,” Harris said. “We have a lot more convincing to do, and we just haven’t done it.”

According to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, in 2011 the state spent $25 million to place in landfills more than $193 million worth of materials that could have been recycled.

Alabama in 2010 had more than 26 manufacturers that used recycled materials,which generated more than $6.6 billion in annual sales and employed more than 10,700 workers, according to a study by the Southeast Recycling Development Council, a nonprofit organization that advocates for recycling.

If the state recycled 10 percent more each year it would create more than 1,400 jobs, more than $66 million in personal income and $3 million each year in state tax revenue, according to the Development Council study.

Anniston killed a curbside recycling program in 1995 after only about one-third of residents participated, far fewer than the 50 percent city officials had projected. The city ended the program rather than increase garbage fees by $1.41 per household.

Other cities, such as Jacksonville, chose to include recycling as part of their regular garbage collection service, charging a single fee.

That’s a good way to ensure the success of recycling programs, said Alan Gurganus, recycling director for the Alabama Environmental Council.

Some cities use grants or contract out all facets of recycling. Decatur owns its own recycling facility and landfill and makes a profit from collecting recyclables, Gurganus said.

“I’m talking hundreds of thousands of dollars a year,” He said.

Bin trouble

The Calhoun County Commission provides has placed several bins across the county where residents can dump their recyclables for free. But businesses in Oxford have asked the county to remove the bins because the areas around them become strewn with garbage, officials said.

Bins at Quintard Mall recently were removed after such complaints, said Calhoun County Extension Office coordinator David West. The county extension office manages the recycling program for the County Commission, overseeing the collection and separation of recyclables and educating the public on how to recycle.

The bins were moved to the Center of Hope thrift store on Hamric Drive with the agreement that the area around them would be kept free of trash. That didn’t happen, Hubbard said, and the county removed them in December

“They put their stuff out there and then it would rain and the cardboard would get nasty. And that’s their storefront,” Hubbard said. “I can’t blame them for being upset.”

Residents can still drop off recyclables at bins located at Alexandria High School, Weaver City Park, Wellborn High School, the Calhoun County highway storage barn in Ohatchee, the Winn-Dixie on Noble Street in Anniston and the Community Garden at McClellan.

Heflin’s woes

Heflin’s growing recycling program halted temporarily in November when the city’s delivery of recyclables to the Calhoun County Recycling Center on Bynum Leatherwood Road was turned away.

The city has had a recycling program for at least five years, said Keith Yancy, Heflin’s street supervisor. The program began with Southwire donating two small community recycling bins, Yancy said. The city emptied the bins and took a truckload to the recycling center, where the Calhoun County Extension Office sorted and recycled the material.

Then last summer, the Extension Office offered to the city large recycling trailers, purchased with a state grant, that included bins for paper, cans and plastic. Mayor Rudy Rooks said the city placed two of the trailers, one at the Heflin City Park and one at City Hall.

With the new trailers in place, Yancy said, residents threw themselves into recycling and the program began to grow. The city took a full trailer to the recycling center about every three weeks to be emptied, he said.

There is no other cost to the program, said West, of the Extension Office.

The county had closed the Recycling Center on Bynum Leatherwood Road during November and December to pave the gravel parking lot, and to do some work on the Agriculture Center next door, West said.

“We’ve repaved everything out there and we’re also getting new staff in,” West said. He said normal operations should begin again within the next week or two.

Meanwhile Heflin’s recyclables continue to pile up. Besides the two full trailers, the city has 10 big blue trash cans waiting to go to the county’s recycling center, Yancy said.

Jennifer Yates coordinates the extension office’s recycling program, and said Helfin’s recyclables will be accepted at the Bynum center early next week.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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Local recycling programs face obstacles by Eddie Burkhalter and Laura Camper
Star Staff Writers

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