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2015-05-07

Profitable recycling in county's future?

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

With a little help from self-described "trash talker'" Rachel Hering, executive director of Cooperative Teamwork & Recycling Assistance (CTRA), Bandera County's recycling program may be back on track.
On Thursday, April 23, Hering returned to commissioners court armed with a comprehensive review of the solid waste disposal areas located in each precinct. She began her presentation by congratulating all commissioners.
"CTRA has never had a county where each commissioner was involved in recycling and is passionate about it," Hering said. "This is an excellent testimony to you and your community."
She offered the court ways to maximize profits, staff the recycling stations and secure grants to fund equipment. "Block grants will open in May and are due in July," Hering said. "I've found two good grant sources for infrastructure but you have to sign a contract with CTRA before we can proceed."
On the other hand, funding from AACOG (Alamo Area Council of Goverments) is tied up in the current legislature, she said.
Hering's research indicated, based on the January report of recycling tonnage from Lakehills, "Overall, the county is being vastly underpaid. It's not uncommon. This happens all the time." She continued, "You were charged $500 and should have received $2,000. At CTRA rates, cardboard is recycling at $80 per ton and you were paid $15 a ton."
Hering assured commissioners that her nonprofit company would get the county the best possible pricing for its recycling.
"How solid is the truck-to-mill pricing?" asked Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris. On April 9, Hering had told commissioners that by shipping cardboard directly to a mill in Oklahoma, there would be no added hauling costs.
As she explained, "When you take recyclables directly to the mill, you'll get the best price, but if you have to send them to San Antonio for sorting, you're going to pay more."
Answering Harris' question, Hering said, "We will never change that - even if we have to find a new vendor. And a new mill is opening in Oklahoma that will drive prices for cardboard even higher."
Regarding metal recycling, Lakehills' scrap metal goes to Monterrey Iron of San Antonio and a Boy Scout troop collects aluminum cans in Precinct 3.
"You can chose what you want to recycle with us," Hering said. "We would never take cans away from nonprofits."
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jordan "Jody" Rutherford suggested, however, that only nonprofits organizations be allowed to continue to collect aluminum cans, not individuals as that would cut into the county's profits.
To oversee Bandera County's recycling program, CTRA would charge a 10 percent administrative fee. As an example, in January, the county would have received a check for $2,200 minus the 10 percent administrative fee.
"The administrative fee helps us help other communities," Hering said. "We also keep all information and can generate reports as needed, which are useful for grant applications."
According to Hering, recycling would need to be consolidated to two sites within the county on specific days. The sites, she said, would probably include Lakehills, which currently has a robust recycling effort, and Bandera's Precinct 3 solid waste collection station on Highway 16 north. At this point, paper products and glass would not be recycled.
"There is no market for used glass and paper is not very profitable at present. Right now, we're charged $50 per ton to recycle glass - and that's only east of Interstate 35. We have 20 tons of glass in Del Rio and can't get anyone to pick it up. To recycle glass, you need to purchase a pulverizer, but they cost $100,000."
She continued, "Paper prices keep going down. Right now it's just $8 per ton. My advice is to take your time getting started and add other items eventually."
Making a plea for community involvement in the recycling effort, Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson said, "This would increase our chances of getting grants."
Concurring, Herring added, "It's also important to involve civic and community organization, like garden clubs and even FFA and 4H. Community involvement, especially in the form of volunteers to assist with the recycling effort, is very important. Volunteers contribute to the success of the recycling programs in Utopia and Leakey."
Commissioners voted unanimously to enter into a contract and allow Cooperative Teamwork & Recycling Assistance to monitor and administer Bandera County's recycling program.
Stay tuned for more recycling information.