By DOTTY NIST
While recycling is encouraged, economics and market conditions have caused Walton County to limit materials currently collected for recycling in county recycle trailers to aluminum cans and plastic.
Newly-painted trailer bins at some locations reflect the change in materials accepted for recycling, while others not yet repainted continue to also display sections for collection of glass and newspaper.
Billy McKee, solid waste assistant manager for the Walton County Solid Waste & Recycling Department, said that the county will continue to accept glass and newspaper that residents place in the recycling bins. However, he explained that these materials are no longer being recycled. Instead they are being sent for disposal in the Jackson County Landfill along with household garbage that is brought to the Walton County Landfill by trash trucks and by residents.
Unlike yard and construction debris, household garbage is not placed in the Walton County Landfill but is instead transported to Jackson County.
These are challenging times for recycling programs, as discussed in a May 2016 article by Mallory Szczepanski, “The Challenges Low Oil Prices Bring to the Waste and Recycling Industry,” appearing in the solid waste industry and recycling industry publication Waste 360. According to Szczepanski, low oil prices have resulted in the cost of virgin materials falling below that of not just plastics but other recycled materials, reducing manufacturers’ demand for recyclables and driving down the price for recycled commodities in general.
An Oct. 2015 article by Will Flower, “Focusing on the Economics of Glass Recycling,” in the same publication, a number of factors have resulted in communities dropping glass from items accepted in their recycling programs, one of those being that “glass has always been one of the lower valued commodities.” Flower also points out, among other issues, the tendency of glass to break during collection and the resulting difficulty of sorting it, its wear on equipment at recycling centers, its heavy weight/cost to transport, and the limited markets for recycled glass.
“Remember…when there is no market, there is no recycling,” he wrote.
McKee noted that glass recycling may be feasible in locations with larger populations and more industry that can make use of recycled glass—but that in the local area the need for recycled glass by businesses of this type is lacking.
“There is not market for glass…I don’t know of a glass recycling facility that has not closed,” he said.
The good news, McKee commented, is that glass is not a material that causes problems when it is placed in a landfill. “It is a good, clean fill material,” he said.
The current issue with newspaper at the landfill, McKee explained, is that newspaper must be kept dry in order to avoid it being rejected by a recycling facility. At this time there is no place at the landfill to store it in order to keep it dry, he said.
Plans are, McKee continued, for the solid waste transfer station now in use at the landfill to be repurposed for use in the recycling program once the new transfer station, now in the design phase, is constructed. This should provide a place for newspaper and other recyclables to be stored and kept dry once that is accomplished. At that time, newspapers may again be accepted for recycling.
McKee said state prison inmates assist every day with sorting and separation of materials placed in the recycle trailers and preparing the materials for storage and sale.
In former years these inmates used a conveyor belt apparatus to sort through household garbage bought to the landfill, but McKee said this procedure is no longer taking place due to the apparatus no longer being functional, the danger associated with the practice, and the need to expedite transfer of the household solid waste. He said as many as 500 tons of household garbage is received at the landfill daily.
Walton County does not provide curbside recycling. However, county solid waste and recycling contractor Waste Management evaluates the feasibility of such a program yearly in view of market conditions and provides a report to the county commission on their evaluation.
Recycle trailers are located at more than two dozen locations countywide. “We encourage them to use these bins as much as possible,” McKee said.
He added that it is all right to put cans in the plastic section of the trailer or vice versa if any particular section is full, or to leave bags containing materials outside a trailer in an orderly manner. However, he emphasized the need to keep trailer areas neat and free from garbage. Many of the locations are on private property, and property owners may withdraw permission if the trailer areas are left messy.
Information on trailer locations and other ways to participate in the county’s recycling program is available at the link www.co.walton.fl.us/224/Solid-Waste-Recycling or by calling the landfill at (850) 892-8180.
By DOTTY NIST