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Hall leaders want you to be better at throwing out trash
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Linda Kerns of Gainesville throws away trash on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, at the Sardis compactor site in northwest Hall County. - photo by David Barnes

Hall County compactor sites are closed only one day each year: Christmas Day. On Dec. 26, it shows.

Expect sky-high piles of cardboard boxes, paper and mounds of turkey and ham bones — and maybe a few geese carcasses — at compactor sites around the county by the end of the day on Tuesday. After opening at 7:30 a.m., plan for long lines as parents hustle to clear their homes of the evidence of just how much they (and those grandparents) spent on the kiddos this year. Christmas trees can also be dropped there and will be chipped into mulch.

And as Hall County government ends the year, it’s making some changes to code to clarify what can be thrown in compactors and who’s allowed to throw it.

Only Hall residents may use compactors and the landfill, but anybody, whether they’re passing through from Alabama or Alaska or Maine, can take their recycling to the county.

But if you’re tossing garbage into a compactor, it has to be bagged.

Earlier this month, the Hall County Board of Commissioners signed off on a proposal to post signs at compactor sites making clear that all garbage must be bagged before it’s crushed.

The requirement “was already in (code), but we wanted to make it a little more clear,” said Public Works Director Ken Rearden, who oversees the solid waste program. “Our compactor site attendants have had trouble with people just throwing loose garbage in there.”

Commissioners will take a second vote in January, but the proposal is expected to pass. When it does, signs will be posted at sites alerting people to the rules.

Johnnie Vickers, director of the Hall County Solid Waste Department, said the signs will be posted at the end of January.

Hall leaders also are looking to get every penny they can out of the recycling program, which is now based in a recycling center on Chestnut Street southeast of downtown Gainesville. But that could change, as Rearden and the county are putting their hopes behind a new, multimillion-dollar recycling facility with new technology that would separate recyclables from household garbage.

About 45 percent of the county’s recycling program is funded by the cash it receives from selling cardboard, aluminum cans and glass, according to Bobby Purdum, who heads up the county recycling program.

“We did a study on this, and … there’s approximately 50 percent recyclables in that garbage,” Rearden said.

That means there’s cash in that garbage, and the county is hoping to build a new recycling center to collect it. Its end goal, in addition to avoiding waste, is to save space at the county landfill, which has another 20 years in it and which some in the county worry could be the last landfill ever permitted in Hall.

But a new recycling center is years away, at least, and that means residents still have to do their separating at home. So instead of tossing those Amazon boxes in with your old banana peels, break them down and set them aside and — maybe someday — you’ll save yourself some property tax.

Hall County accepts recyclables at all of its compactor sites in addition to the recycling center.

“Just get you four bins in your house and you’ll be fine: One for glass, one for paper, one for plastic and metal and one for the garbage,” Rearden said. “It works fine in my house.”

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