Recycling may be the key to money making for Hall County — and it may not.
County officials will embark on a three-month study next month to determine if a new recycling program might encourage residents to recycle more and, in doing so, generate more revenue for the government.
Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden said the plan is to implement a recycling program that allows residents to throw nearly all of their recyclables into one bin.
Cardboard and paper will still be separated, however.
“We’re going to try and see what kind of volume increase we get,” Rearden said.
Residents who use the compactor sites at Sardis Road and in Flowery Branch will begin to participate in the trial program on Nov. 5, Rearden said.
The rest of the county’s compactor sites could see the change as early as next year if the plan proves successful.
Success hinges on whether the program encourages people to recycle enough to make up for the lower price the county will get per ton on sold recyclables.
The current recycling system, which requires county residents to separate plastics, aluminum and glass, brings in premium prices: $140 a ton for plastics and $1,100 for each ton of recycled aluminum, Rearden estimated, though he admits the county rarely, if ever, collects an entire ton of aluminum.
But by allowing residents to throw most of their recyclables into one bin, the county would only be able to sell its recyclables for about $25 a ton.
“The revenue’s going to drop, because you’re not going to be separating this material,” Rearden said. “That’s what we’ve got to see — whether we have the right combination or not. We definitely think keeping the cardboard separate will bring the revenue up from all three products.”
The recycling changes are part of ongoing efforts to reduce the solid waste division’s reliance on general fund tax dollars.
Already, in an effort to make the solid waste division of the Public Works Department more financially independent, the commission has approved the closure of the Allen Creek compactor site and given county employees direction to negotiate landfill fees with municipalities in the county in order to bring their business back to the landfill.
Also, since Oct. 9, the county has cut hours of operationg at both the landfill and at compactor sites and raised a minimum fee at the landfill to help the solid waste division become more financially independent.
Still, Rearden says the department has a ways to go before it no longer relies on tax dollars and other program changes are in the works, including a paint recycling program.
“We’re still about $168,000 short without (funding) any capital improvements,” Rearden said.