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2012-03-15

County enters recycling Round 2

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Last November, Bandera County Commissioners heard an in-depth presentation about recycling from Bruce Magnuson, a manager at Waste Management. What looked like a win-win proposition in the fall proved less than successful as winter segued into spring, however.

According to Precinct 2 Commissioner - and recycling guru - Bobby Harris, several problems occurred on Waste Management's watch. "Precincts 1, 3 and 4 were doing uncompacted single-stream recycling and it was costing the county $570 to pull a 20-yard container of recyclable material," Harris said. "We were also promised 40-yard containers, but just the smaller ones were delivered. And, our promised rebate payments were not forthcoming in a timely manner."

These complaints necessitated the protracted discussion on Thursday, March 8. At its conclusion, everyone was on the same recycling page after it was decided that all precincts would follow Harris' successful model. By separating - rather than single streaming - recyclables, more money would be put into county coffers
Last week, Juan Gonzalez, Greenstar business recycling consultant, made a successful pitch for his company to take over the county's recycling operation.

Greenstar has locations throughout the United Stars and its facility in San Antonio, one of the largest in the nation, processes over 3,000 tons of recyclable material daily. This comes out to a half a million tons annually, according to Gonzalez.

As he explained, single stream recycling might be easier, but unfortunately, is the least lucrative for the county. Judge Richard Evans wanted to offer county citizens consistency at every compactor station. "We need to come to some consensus throughout the county," he said. "We get a lot of calls (about recycling) at my office."

"There's a lot of money on the table to separate recyclables," said Harris, who has offered that method of recycling at his precinct's solid waste station for years. "My people are compliant and religiously separate their recyclables. Also, the county saves a tremendous amount of money in hauling fees."

Gonzalez also pointed out, "If recyclables are separated, you would get maximum return and rebates for each commodity - paper, plastics and cardboard. You would get money back for recycling."

At this time, compacted cardboard collected from a flatbed brings $100 per ton; PET plastics, $150 per ton; and LDPE plastics, $150 per ton.

Hauling fee is $200 per pickup and can handle multiple tonnages. Single stream recycling compacted and collected from a flatbed brings in just $25 per ton without a hauling fee.

Outlay for separated recycling includes $250 per month for baler rental, electricity, the purchase of a forklift or its equivalent for three precincts, constructing cement slabs if needed and possibly increasing operators' hours. It could also require an increase in supervised work crews from the Bandera County Jail, according to Chief Deputy Richard Smith.

However, the potential financial returns would far outstrip the initial outlays, Evans said. "We're talking about $60,000 a year. This could save $300,000 in five years."
"At this point, we're paying too much for hauling and we're losing out on rebates for the commodities," Harris said.

Unconvinced, Precinct 3 Commissioner Richard Keese said, "It's a figment of your imagination if you think you're going to make money from recycling."

According to Harris, however, in one pull, the county could get rebates of $2,500 to $3,000 "less the $200 fee for hauling." He added, "I will not pay $500 to a company to haul my recyclables. They sell it and make the money." He also noted, "If taxpayers recycle, they can cut their garbage sack fees."

Regarding the initial start-up costs, Evans said, "We could spend some capital now and in 10 years make some money."

Gonzalez indicated that grants are available to counties to offset costs of recycling, including those from the Alamo Area Council of Governments and Lower Colorado River Authority.

Pushing for standardized recycling programs in all precincts, Evans said, "We can't sustain what we're doing now." A single haul that costs the county $200 could potentially include 30 to 35 bales of compacted recyclables from the different precincts.

"If you have 10 tons of cardboard and another 10 tons of plastics, it could bring the county $2,200 worth of rebates per pull per flatbed," Harris said.

To a query from Medina resident Carole Boyd, Gonzalez said a separate bin could be designated for co-mingling baling wire and other metal objects. "If you provide a place for metal, you'll get metal," Evans told Gonzalez.

"Aluminum, metal, cardboard and plastics are all earn rebates because they are compacted and baled separately," Harris said.

"We're looking at a potential savings of $50,000 to $60,000 in one year with Greenstar," Evans said.
"And that's based on the numbers right now if we do this across the county. This recycling will grow in size and have a negative impact on the county taxpayers," noted Harris.