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Room for improvement in county recycling

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Swain County continues to recycle, and that’s a positive for the county, earning money for the costly program of waste management. 

Changes in the recycling market have impacted the rate of return on recycling, however, making it that much more important to keep contaminants out of the recycling bin. 

“Our recycling program has been really good and successful even though it’s been down a little bit,” said Scott Turpin, Swain County Waste Management supervisor, to Swain County Board of Commissioners at the board’s regular meeting Thursday, Aug. 22. 

For fiscal year 2018-2019, Swain County collected 8,305.7 tons of garbage that was transported to Homer, Georgia for disposal— up 255.98 tons. There was 1,521.21 tons of recycling collected during that same time, down 36.94 tons from the previous fiscal year. 

A reduced amount of cardboard recycling from ConMet is the likely what impacted the decrease in recycling, Turpin said. He added he believes the company plans to close later this month. 

The county is now paying $16 a ton to get rid of its recycling because of contamination that has to be sorted out, Turpin said. Since the county only earns $18 a ton, there’s a need to reduce those contaminants. 

Before 2018, China accepted low-value classes of recyclables that domestic markets didn’t accept. Since then, such recyclables from foreign markets have been banned- including bales of unprocessed plastics and mixed paper.  

In response to the market changes, NC Department of Environmental Quality wants to help people understand how to recycle only material that recovery facilities can manage. 

“The recycling industry has gone through periods of flux before, but the markets have always rebounded. Now is the time to reinvigorate outreach efforts about recycling and focus on recovering the quality material that can be used in American markets,” said Wendy Worley, section chief of the DEQ Recycling and Materials Management in a press release.

When residents put non-recyclable items in the recycling, it causes contamination. 

Turpin said in Swain County the biggest issues are low-grade plastics, such as #5 plastic like laundry baskets and big buckets that are being thrown into the recycling bins. 

Similarly, glass is sorted by color at the convenience site. The county earns more for clear glass, but if it’s contaminated with colored glass it gets less. Plastic grocery bags are also still a problem in the recycling. 

In 2018, North Carolina residents recycled more than 1.5 million tons of material, supporting 16,300 private sector jobs in the state’s 674 recycling businesses.

To learn more about recycling, visit www.recycle

In other actions Thursday, the commissioners:

• Accepted the Building Inspections Report. 

• Accepted the Sheriff’s Department Report.

• Accepted the Tax Office Report.

• Accepted the Community Health Assessment Report.

• Approved a nomination for Mary Gloyne Wachacha to serve on the Marianna Black Library board. 

• Set a public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. for the Swain County Animal Control Ordinance. 

Smoky Mountain Times

Mailing Address:
PO Box 730
1 River Street
Bryson City, NC 28713 
Phone: 828-488-2189
Fax: 828-488-0315