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Recycling waste rakes in revenue for Hall County

Donating materials prevents litter and pollution

POSTED: April 22, 2014 1:00 a.m.

“Most people don’t realize that they use recycled-content materials every day,” Hall County Recycling Coordinator Rick Foote said.

Everything from cars to toilet paper is often made of recyclable materials, which can prevent litter and pollution. Hall County residents can recycle the items by dropping them off at one of the several locations to aid in saving the environment.

One of the main purposes of Earth Day is to promote environment-friendly acts such as recycling. In Hall County, hundreds of tons of recyclables are collected and processed every year.

And recycled materials are a big business. According to a 2001 study commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the recycling industry employs 1.1 million people nationwide and generates $37 billion in annual payrolls and $236 billion in annual sales. One local example of this is the Georgia carpet industry, which uses so many recycled materials it has to import them from other states, Foote said.

“Putting stuff in the ground creates a future liability, but the recycle stream turns it into an asset,” he said. “It is one thing the average person can do to make a difference. It has a lot of environmental and economic benefits.”

Recycled trash doesn’t go into the county landfill, which has a finite amount of space. If the landfill reached maximum capacity and closed, not only would the county have to find a location for a new one — an expensive and time-consuming process — it would have to monitor the site for at least 30 years to make sure it isn’t polluting local waterways.

So what can Hall County residents recycle? The list is lengthy.

Any paper torn by hand, such as newspapers, magazines, phone books, corrugated cardboard, food boxes and hard- and soft-bound books, are accepted at recycling locations. All plastics numbered one through seven, which are printed inside the triangular recycle symbol on the product, are accepted at county resource recovery and compactor sites. Glass food and beverage bottles and used motor oil are also accepted at the sites.

Additionally, rechargeable batteries, used cooking oil and most electronics, except tube-based television sets, can be dropped off at the county recycling center at 1008 Chestnut St. in Gainesville. The county landfill, at 1700 Oakbrook Drive, also accepts paint, tires, scrap metal and car batteries.

At the recycling center, collected materials are organized into proper groups before being packaged into bales and sold to companies who process the waste into new products.

Business is booming, too. A new $330,000 baler and conveyer system, which packages the waste into large compressed blocks for transport, has allowed the center to increase production significantly. In March, the center sorted and packaged 545 tons of recyclables, the majority of which was mixed paper.

“We ship at least one truckload Monday through Friday of mixed paper,” Recycling Center Supervisor Bobby Purdum said. “That is roughly 20 tons that we ship out every day.

“As of right now, we are seven truckloads short of being right at what we did (for all of) last year.”

Once the materials are packaged and loaded, the county goes through a bidding procedure with processing companies. Money made from the products goes into the county’s enterprise fund, a self-sustaining fund kept separate from the general fund.

“It is basically revenue for the county,” Purdum said.

County recycling is also considering new ways to increase collection to boost revenue and sustainability. Last September, it painted three recycling bins bright pink with the words “Please Recycle” written across the side to promote recycling and raise awareness of breast cancer.

“Just by doing those three pink cans, it upped our tonnage by 20 tons a month,” Purdum said. “Just by painting it a different color.

“It’s bright and people notice it.”

For more information, visit www.hallcounty.org/recycling/ or call 770-531-7125.


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