Recycling Leaders to Share Ideas Today at Myrtle Beach Conference

Every day, trucks dump 2 million pounds of waste -- the equivalent of enough cinder blocks to build a 15-story building about the size of a basketball court -- into the Horry County landfill.

Every day, trucks dump 2 million pounds of waste -- the equivalent of enough cinder blocks to build a 15-story building about the size of a basketball court -- into the Horry County landfill.

The amounts are less in neighboring Brunswick, N.C., and Georgetown counties, but they, too, are feeling pressure from the region's growth and hope increased recycling programs can provide landfill relief.

Officials from all three counties will swap strategies on waste reduction with more than 400 public and private recycling professionals from the Carolinas at the Carolina Recycling Association's four-day conference, which begins today in Myrtle Beach.

"Once you understand that space is all we have, then you do everything you can to save that space, and recycling is one of the ways that makes a large difference," Horry County Solid Waste Authority Director Ricky Hardee said. "If you take a pound out, we've got a pound of space left."

To stretch the life of its 27-acre multimillion-dollar landfill, the authority is building a new recycling processing facility and is planning to test landfill-waste-reduction technology from Clemson University.

Georgetown County is erecting a building at its solid-waste station where construction and demolition loads will be dumped, sorted and worked into reusable products.

Horry County businesses and residents have increased the amount of waste they recycle by more than 40 percent since 2000, diverting 23 percent of the waste stream from the landfill through recycling.

Still, the statewide recycling goal is to recycle 35 percent of waste, and officials would like to move closer to that number. Recycling is encouraged at the landfill through pricing.

Although waste-disposal trucks pay full price for solid-waste dumps, they can dump recyclables such as paper, plastic bottles and aluminum cans at the Horry County recycling facility free of charge.

Disposal trucks also save on tipping fees for separated concrete, yard waste, shingles and other reusable materials that are kept in piles at the landfill and used for road building and other projects.

Shrinking the waste through scientific ingenuity is another tactic the authority is trying.

The waste-reduction technology, a product of Clemson University research funded by the authority, is expected within the next 2 months, Hardee said.

Authority officials say a key to reaching recycling rates of 35 percent or higher in Horry County is construction of a 300-foot-by-150-foot recycling facility equipped with machinery that mechanically separates recyclables.

The authority board has approved the plans and funding for the new facility but still must decide where to build it.

The new facility, targeted to begin operating in 2007, will make recycling easier for consumers and processors.

Businesses and residents will need to do one only separation: food waste in one trash can and all recyclables in the other.

This streamlined sorting currently is used by cities and towns in Horry County such as Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach.

They provide blue bags to residents. All recyclables are thrown in blue bags for curbside collection.

When the blue bags are hauled to Horry County's existing recycling facility, however, the manual separation is labor-intensive and grueling, particularly in hot summer months, said Donald Bruton, recycling-facility manager.

The current Horry County recycling facility, off U.S. 501 near U.S. 17, can barely keep up with the flow, Bruton said.

The facility rarely turns a truck away, but the lack of storage space at the site requires a tight schedule of sorting, bundling and trucking bales of recyclables to buyers that use them to make products.

Cardboard recycling, one of the authority's most aggressive programs, has increased from 4,000 tons recycled in 1999 to 7,300 tons in 2004.

The increase is largely due to free waste audits the authority offers to businesses to demonstrate the cost benefit of leasing cardboard-recycling containers.

Still, Hardee wants to recycle more of the remaining 13,000 tons of cardboard buried in the landfill annually.

He says he thinks the new facility's greater capacity will allow the authority to push harder for recycling in the future.

"Once we get the capacity to handle it," Hardee said, "then we'll start trying to attack the waste stream here through advertising, through education, through one-on-one meetings, through whatever mechanism we can do to get that 13,000 tons [of cardboard] out of the waste stream."

Georgetown County solid-waste officials process about 85,000 tons of garbage and 14,000 tons of recyclables annually at their landfill.

Using a projected 2 percent population-growth rate, Georgetown officials expect the landfill space will last for at least 27 years. The 400-acre solid-waste site includes 19 acres of landfill, an environmental-education center, a 14-acre bio-solids compost facility and wetland area.

They plan to add on to the site with a new 50-foot-by-30-foot metal "slop shop," where truckloads that are made mostly of construction and demolition debris will unload. Georgetown County Detention Center inmates will recondition the debris by sawing off rough ends of lumber and hammering out nails so they can be reused, solid waste Superintendent Lin Wisikoski said.

In addition to running 13 free recycling drop-off sites, Georgetown County has expanded its paper-recycling program to pick up paper, cardboard and newspaper from all public schools and 70 businesses.

The county is working to increase the number of participating businesses.

"We're really seeing a difference it's making," Wisikoski said.

Although waste in Georgetown and Horry counties is buried in county-owned landfills, most waste in Brunswick County is buried in a landfill owned by Waste Industries in Samson County.

Waste Industries, which handles all waste and recycling in Brunswick County, has contracts with several towns for curbside recycling pickup or management of centrally located recycling containers.

But Waste Industries profits more from collecting garbage than from recycling, Waste Industries' Brunswick County manager Greg Brinkley said.

"It's really up to the towns," Brinkley said. "We'll take it either way."

Waste Industries hauls unsorted recyclables collected from Brunswick County drop-off centers or homes to the Eastern Carolina Vocational Center in Jacksonville, N.C., a company that provides employment for people with disabilities.

"We can't get by on recycling alone," Brinkley said. "We are, of course, in the business to make money.

"There's not enough money just to recycle by itself. It is a part of the waste business we do."

The Brunswick County-owned landfill in Bolivia was forced to close its solid-waste burial in 1998 when regulations requiring thick plastic linings took effect, landfill supervisor Tim Carter said.

Construction and demolition waste can be buried at the 54-acre site for about four more years before it will be filled, Carter said. Solid waste and recycling still are brought to the Brunswick landfill and then are hauled elsewhere for disposal by Waste Industries.

The Brunswick County government pays Waste Industries per household to provide curbside garbage collection for unincorporated areas. Residents can recycle by visiting any of 12 drop-off sites.

"There are some [Brunswick County] residents that would like curbside recycling, but not enough for it to be an economic benefit because it is so much more expensive," Brunswick County recycling official Stephanie Rumley said. "And the drop-off sites are being used, but not to the point that we need to add more."

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