Resuming curbside recycling ‘almost unattainable’ for Easley

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

EASLEY — Easley officials hope to one day resume the city’s curbside recycling program.

City officials recently announced that curbside recycling would be suspended beginning this week.

During discussion of the fiscal year ’20-’21 budget during council’s June 8 meeting, Councilman Brian Garrison asked city administrator Stephen Steese to discuss what the city’s plans are for recycling.

The decision to suspend curbside recycling “mostly has to do with the recycling market in general,” Steese said.

The city currently partners with Pickens County to recycle, he said.

“We take all of our recycling to Pickens County,” Steese said. “They sort it, bundle it and then they sell it to a contractor that picks it up.”

The recycling market has declined, he said.

“They’ve gone from being able to generate revenue off of recycling to where pretty much they’re charging us to take our recycling now,” Steese said.

But that’s only one part of the issue, he said.

“The other part of the issue is contamination within the recycling stream,” Steese said.

“Whenever people put items that are not recyclable — and we pick them up and take them — and they see contamination inside the bundle, they’ll actually reject it and it goes to the landfill,” he said. “Not only is there no revenue in it, but everything is so tight in it that any contamination over I think it’s 5 or 10 percent of the bundle, they reject it and it ends up going to the landfill.”

An earlier discussion with council centered around continuing recycling but ensuring recyclables make it to the recycling center versus being rejected into the landfill, Steese said.

Used pizza boxes and cardboard boxes full of household trash are examples of items contaminating the recycling stream, he said.

Continuing curbside recycling “has become almost unattainable without hiring additional staff and purchasing additional vehicles, because we would have to sort at the curbs, and we can’t do that without additional employees and vehicles,” Steese said.

Another option discussed was a manned convenience center, which would require 1.5 staff positions, he said. Running the recycling truck now requires three employees.

“We would be able to help people,” Steese said. “We would actually sort it for them to make sure that it’s sort correctly so when it gets picked up and taken to the county it will 100 percent go recyclable.”

Curbside recycling would be eliminated, “and we would go completely to the recycle center,” which would be located directly behind City Hall at the old courtesy dump, he said.

“Instead of being a courtesy dump, it’s going to be a courtesy recycling center,” Steese said. “We would make sure it’s staffed so that everything gets sorted properly.”

Staff could educate the public there on what it is recyclable, he said.

“So when we hopefully do get to go back to curbside, they’ll be better prepared should it ever get to occur,” Steese said.

Councilman Jim Robinson asked if trash cans would be available at the center for materials rejected for recycling.

Trash cans will be there, as will a trash truck for compacting, Steese said.

Mayor Butch Womack said the city plans to create advertising and social media posts “and let people see what we’re doing up here and how it’s going to work.”

Steese said staff are working on a magnet that will be sent to residents “to let people know where to recycle at, what is recyclable.”

Councilwoman Pat Webb appreciated the discussions mentioning curbside recycling resuming at some point.

“If the recycling market makes it feasible, we could pick it up again,” she said. “I don’t want to lose the momentum that we have with the children at school, teaching them about recycling. I don’t want to lose that completely by just shutting it down. I think the manned recycling center is a compromise.”

Councilman Kent Dykes said recycling is the way of the future.

“We’ve got a momentary blip right now,” he said.

Garrison asked if having the center open on Saturdays was possible.

“We’re actually going to mirror the county’s (recycling centers) schedule,” Steese said. “We will have their exact same hours of operation. We’ll only be closed on Wednesday and Sunday.”

The courtesy recycling station opened on Monday.