Hall County is exploring a new, multimillion-dollar recycling center at the Candler Road Landfill.
With more garbage than it can handle at the current recycling center on Chestnut Street, Hall County Public Works is proposing a new facility that will boost both the volume and variety of recyclable materials in the county.
Hall County Solid Waste Director Johnnie Vickers said an up-to-date facility would be a “win-win” for Hall County and its taxpayers because it would bring in more revenue from the sale of recyclables and save space in the landfill.
The first step to a new facility is a $64,660 contract with engineering firm CDM Smith to do a feasibility study on the new plant, which is on track to be approved by the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Thursday.
The current center was opened in 1992 and handles about 8,600 tons of recyclables each year — items ranging from clothes to cans to oils to glass. It generates about $450,000 a year in income, or 45 percent of its $1 million budget. Much of the work is done by hand with inmates through the county’s work program for prisoners.
“We think we’re going to at least double our revenue, if not triple it, right off the bat,” said Public Works and Public Utilities Director Ken Rearden.
Currently, the recycling center can process about 2 tons of material per hour, according to Vickers. A new, automated facility would process more than 12 times that amount.
The center is at capacity, and the building can’t expand to accommodate new technology. An updated facility could handle 25 to 35 tons of material per hour, according to a feasibility study done in-house by Public Works.
The department envisions a large facility — ranging from 90,000 to 160,000 square feet — at the Candler Road site. The project is expected to cost “multimillions,” Rearden said, but he didn’t give a specific figure.
The for-hire study is intended to check the county’s numbers and fill in other important details, including how the new facility could accommodate recyclable material from the city of Gainesville, local school systems and large businesses in the area.
The study should take 90 days and, if approved, will include investigation into how the county can service more companies and governments.
“They’re going to interview some larger manufacturing, the schools, the hospital, to determine where they’re sending their recyclables now and what the potential would be if they sent them to us,” Rearden said.
A new facility could allow the county to accept more “single-stream” recycling, which means paper, plastic and potentially glass could be combined in the same bin or bag.
At the moment, Hall County must have recycling separated into individual types of material.
“We may be able to tell everybody to put their paper and plastic and cans together,” Rearden said. “Certainly glass is always a commodity that we want to keep separate, but it doesn’t seem like some of these other communities are going to separate glass. So we’re going to design our facility — right now, that’s our thinking right now — it’s going to be able to separate the glass too.”
The feasibility study by CDM Smith might reveal a true single-stream plan to be “cost-prohibitive,” he added.
The county’s inability to handle single-stream recycling means that the city of Gainesville and Red Oak Sanitation both truck their recycling out of town. A new facility could reopen that discussion, according to Rearden and Vickers.
Hall County opened the Chestnut Street center in the 1990s with one goal in mind: stretching the life of its landfill near Candler Road as far as possible.
“We might very well be working in the last landfill in Hall County,” Vickers said. “We need to take advantage of what we’ve got.”
The existing landfill has fewer than 30 years left until it’s capped and closed, according to Vickers. Making it easier for people to recycle will, in the long run, help the landfill to last longer.
That means the county is “moving in the right direction,” said Bobby Purdum, who directs the Hall County Recycling Center.
“It’s good for our community,” he said. “Nobody wants a landfill in their backyard.”