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Got old appliances? Let the government haul them away for you

POSTED: March 9, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

A pickup truck loaded with scrap metal gets weighed before dumping Tuesday afternoon at Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc. recycling center on Fulenwider Road. It's time to sign up for the Gainesville-Hall annual appliance pickup. If you've got an old fridge or washing machine, city and county crews will haul it away at no charge.

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What do you do if your old washing machine conks out and you don’t have a truck to haul it to the landfill?

Maybe you just shove it out on the porch until you can figure out what to do with it. But now there’s a better alternative.

Gainesville and Hall County officials are taking reservations for the annual household appliance pickup. It’s an opportunity for residents to have "white goods" hauled away at no charge.

But if you want to participate, you need to register by March 7. And you have to play by the rules.

That means you can only dispose of appliances that are on the approved list: stoves/ranges, washing machines, dryers, water heaters, dish washers and refrigerators/freezers. There’s a limit of three items per household.

When you call to register, you’ll be given a pickup date, and it’s your responsibility to have the items out by the curb on that day.

Rick Foote, natural resources coordinator for Hall County, said the pickup event is a longtime tradition.

"The original reason was to help out elderly folks who couldn’t physically take the stuff to the landfill," he said.

Now it’s open to anyone in Hall. It saves them not only time and labor but also a bit of money, since they don’t have to pay the landfill tipping fee.

Normally, the county landfill charges $34.50 per ton, with a flat fee of $5 for items less than 280 pounds. There’s an additional $7 charge for refrigerators, because the Freon inside must be removed in an environmentally safe manner before the rest of the appliance can be recycled.

Foote said the county contracts with a local scrap-metal recycler to get rid of the appliances, an arrangement that benefits both parties.

"The market is very high now for steel, copper and other metals," he said.

Because unincorporated Hall does not have garbage service, the annual pickup is handled by the road maintenance department.

"It takes all my road maintenance people, plus inmate crews, and they do nothing but this for one week," said Kem Smith, assistant director of public works for Hall.

The pickup used to be held in April, to coincide with Earth Day. But Smith’s department asked for it to moved earlier in the year.

"The spring and summer months are our mowing and paving seasons, and that’s our busiest time," he said.

Last year during the pickup, county crews stopped at 170 homes and collected 223 items. Smith said that’s substantially less than in previous years, probably because the rules were tightened.

"In the past, our volume was a lot higher. But people were dumping car parts and construction debris," he said. "Since we cut back (on the number of eligible items), our workload is more manageable."

The event is also open to Gainesville residents, though their situation is a little different. Danny Owen, solid waste superintendent for Gainesville, said people who pay the city’s monthly garbage fee can get their appliances picked up any time of year as long as they make an appointment.

"But at other times (outside of the annual pickup), they have to pay," Owen said. "We charge $18 for refrigerators, $12 for other appliances. We charge extra because we can’t pick it up during a regular garbage route. We have to send out a truck specially for that, so it takes more manpower."

During the annual pickup, as a service to the community, the fees are waived. But Owen warns people not to abuse the privilege.

"It got out of control (for a while)," he said. "People were cleaning out abandoned houses and piling everything on the side of the road."

That’s why items such as couches are no longer included on the list.

Owen said residents need to use caution when they set their items out for pickup. Appliances should be positioned so that children are not able to crawl inside.

"The item has to be by the curb, but not in the roadway," he said. "And don’t block the sidewalk, which forces pedestrians to walk out in the street."

One more thing: Hall residents need to register with the county, Gainesville residents with the city.

That seems straightforward, but there’s still a problem with Hall residents trying to call the Gainesville phone number, especially since the Hall number reverts to a fax machine after 3 p.m.

Owen said the two governments are separate and cannot take information for the other.

He said there’s also confusion over the city’s boundaries. "A lot of people think just because they have a Gainesville (mailing) address, they’re in the city limits of Gainesville," he said.


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