Recycling should be getting simpler at compactor sites across Hall County this spring.
Starting as early as next weekend, Hall County Public Works will begin expanding to compactor sites across the county a simplified recycling program that allows less sorting from residents.
The new system, which will be rolled out over the next month, will require less material sorting for residents when dropping off their recyclables.
County officials are calling the plan a “modified single-stream” program.
To be more accurate, the new program will actually have three streams rather than one. Residents will have to separate recyclables into three categories: glass, paper, and a combination of recyclable metals and plastics.
Some municipalities in the county do offer the traditional single-stream recycling pickup where residents don’t have to separate types of recyclables at all.
The county’s modified system is a spinoff of a pilot program rolled out at the Flowery Branch and Sardis compactor sites last year. That system had residents combining glass, plastics and metals into one slot, and sorting paper products into others.
“There has been very positive feedback from the community on the convenience of the change,” said Ken Rearden, director of the Hall County Public Works Department.
One drawback to that pilot program has been trying to sort glass from the glass, metal and plastic stream.
Rearden said broken glass destroyed one of the county’s conveyor belts on a mechanical sorting machine.
For that reason, the new system will require compactor site users to separate glass from the rest of their recyclables.
The trade-off is the new system also will simplify how the county accepts paper recyclables. Currently, the county has required cardboard to be separated from other paper products. Beginning in mid-May, there will be one slot
for all accepted paper products.
While a simplified system is more convenient for residents, having them completely separate material themselves is actually more profitable for the county. That’s because separated material sells at a higher tonnage than combined material.
Rearden said the county had tried to sell combined glass, plastic and metal materials to a company that collects and repurposes recyclable materials and got offered only $10 per ton on one trip. Another next time, the company didn’t even want the materials.
One hope of the simpler system tested out in Flowery Branch and Sardis is that it would encourage residents to recycle more.
That didn’t really happen at the simplified pilot sites, said Hall County Natural Resources Director Rick Foote.
However, residents have praised the system for the convenience at those sites, said County Commissioner Billy Powell.
And it’s that popularity that’s leading to the expansion.
“We’re trying to make it more convenient for our residents,” Rearden said. “In the long run, we believe this is a win-win for the county and for residents of the entire county.”