Public private partnership helps rehash trash
In September 1995, the unified government of Athens-Clarke County, Ga. (ACC), entered a new era in waste reduction. Years of research and committee meetings led to the establishment of a comprehensive waste management plan. ACC adopted a volume-based fee for garbage, implemented a streamlined recycling program and, perhaps most importantly, completed construction of its Recovered Material Processing Facility (RMPF), the first of its kind in the state.
“The program is very comprehensive,” says Paula Longo, the recycling coordinator for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. “I think it’s going to be excellent and will be a benefit for the whole region.”
ACC has a Citizens Advisory Committee, established in 1991, which advises the Solid Waste Department (SWD) on its policies.
The RMPF is a public/private partnership between ACC and Resource Recovery Systems, Centerbrook, Conn. The company owns and operates the facility, maintains equipment and manages employees while ACC owns the property on which the facility is located.
ACC is under contract to deliver to the facility at least 35 tpd of recyclables, which come from six unmanned drop-off centers, a curb-side collection program and commercial business collection.
The RMPF can process up to 120 tpd and is designed to accept recyclables in two “clean” commingled streams — a paper stream and a container stream. The paper stream includes corrugated cardboard, office paper, newspapers and magazines, telephone books, junk mail, paper bags and paperboard boxes.
The container stream includes glass bottles, #1 and #2 plastics, aluminum cans and foil, aseptic drink boxes and steel cans. The facility also accepts presorted textiles such as sheets, clothing and shoes.
ACC pays the recycling company a tipping fee to have its materials processed at the RMPF – $45 per ton for commingled paper and $86 per ton for containers. The tipping fee is set on a sliding scale, so that the fee decreases as tonnage increases. ACC receives 80 percent of the revenues generated through the sale of recyclable materials.
In the seven months since the program began, recyclable tonnage has increased dramatically. Immediately following implementation of the program, tonnage grew from seven tpd to eight tpd, to 14 tpd in November 1995 and 18 tpd in January 1996. The most current average is 23 tpd of recyclables.
The SWD is awaiting approval of a program that would encourage commercial businesses to increase their participation in the program.
“Residents have had six years of education and were ready to participate,” says Sharyn Dickerson, acting director of the SWD. “However, the greater opportunity to increase recyclable tonnage rests with commercial businesses.
“At first, we thought businesses could figure out on their own how to participate in the new program, but now we’ve realized that they, too, need to receive repeated educational information.”
This article was written by Melissa Tweedell, program education specialist with the ACC Solid Waste Department’s recycling division.