Last week, hundreds of local residents and young people took the pledge to recycle. Nov. 15 was the annual America Recycles Day and we planned a number of community activities and school events to encourage more people to begin recycling or to expand their recycling efforts.
Since the first step in the recycling journey begins in your home or your workplace, I thought that I would tell you about the journey that recycled items continue on after they leave your bin. I am often asked, “Where does all of our recycled stuff go?” So join me on this recycling journey.
We have 12 recycling drop-off locations throughout the county. At most of these “recycling barns,” we accept newspaper — including the glossy ad sections — paper, magazines, plastic bottles (pete No. 1 and No. 2), aluminum cans, bi-metal (tin) cans, glass bottles (clear and colored) and cardboard. Brenda Hearn, our recycling coordinator, even has receptacles at each site for turning in plastic shopping bags so they don’t end up in landfills.
Most of the items that are collected at these drop-off centers are taken to the recycling and processing center on Fort Stewart, where they are sorted and packed to be manufactured into new products. Most of the plastics are shipped to Mohawk Industries in Georgia to be recycled into carpet products. Some plastics also end up being manufactured into fence posts and deck products. The cardboard is taken to Interstate Paper and processed into paper products. We also collect paper products that are used by Southeast Paper Recycling. Aluminum cans are sent to several facilities to be melted and then processed to manufacture more aluminum cans. Our used steel (tin) cans have a similar journey.
Hearn receives dated receipts from Fort Stewart for each load brought in. The receipts detail the types of items and the weight of each load. The Liberty County Solid Waste Department and the Fort Stewart Recycling and Processing Center maintain documentation on the items turned in each year for recycling. The solid waste department also gets dated receipts from Southeast Paper for the paper goods that they pick up and take directly to their Garden City center.
Items like electronics that are collected at KLB’s quarterly Recycle It! Fairs and special events are taken for recycling by Goodwill Industries. Goodwill has a contract with Dell to recycle electronics. We feel confident that these items are recycled appropriately and all hard drives are cleaned to protect those who drop off items. I arrange these events and receive dated acknowledgments for each load from these events.
Paint collected at our quarterly events is logged and taken to Habitat for Humanity for re-use. Any cans that are too dried out or contaminated in some way are disposed of properly by recommended methods. Used oil, antifreeze and automobile batteries also are collected at Recycle It! Fairs with help from Coastal Auto and Recycling. Several auto parts stores in the area also accept used oil, antifreeze and batteries. We periodically hold used tire collections for local residents as a part of our recycling program.
Customers are supposed to dispose of their tires at the dealership where they buy new tires, but that is not always the case. The solid waste department staffers often pull tires from the waste stream at the transfer station and then the department has to pay to have the tires properly disposed of in accordance with U.S. and Georgia EPA and EPD rules and regulations. They also sort out scrap metal (old appliances, lawn mowers, etc.) and sell it to local scrap metal dealers. We don’t make much money by selling it, but the county avoids the landfill disposal costs for these items and ultimately reduces the amount of waste in the landfill. Additionally, the city of Hinesville operates a yard waste mulching program at the JV Road facility. They process thousands of tons of yard waste per year. The finished product is a good soil amendment and is offered free to any resident in Liberty County.
Cell phones, ink cartridges and similar items that local civic groups collect for funds are turned over to those groups, like the Ardyss KBell Relay for Life Team. Batteries either are mailed to recyclers or turned into Batteries Plus for recycling. Fluorescent bulbs and CFLs are turned in to Lowes for recycling. Catalogs and telephone books go to Fort Stewart.
Another exciting aspect of the recycling effort in our county has been the addition of special event recycling or, as we call it, “away from home recycling.” We have recycling containers that have been used for numerous community events and festivals. The opportunity to recycle at events has been met with enthusiasm in our community. We commend the organizations, churches, businesses and groups that have used these supplies at their events. Supplies are available on loan from Keep Liberty Beautiful.
Try to remember on America Recycles Day and every day that tossing household items into bins at recycling barns is just the first step in the recycling journey for these items. Just think — that soda can you are drinking from right now might be made of recycled aluminum from a soda can you recycled a few months ago. Recycling is something we can all do to make a difference in our community. Recycling has increased dramatically in the past several years, but let’s not forget that there still are thousands of tons of potentially recyclable items in Liberty County that are being trashed. Let’s all pledge to make recycling the norm for our community and in our daily lives.
For more information on Keep Liberty Beautiful programs, call Sara Swida at 880-4888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.