Trash abuse is hindering county's recycling efforts
Carroll County's recycling efforts have come a long way in just a few years, but there is a problem that is hampering the Solid Waste Authority ---- resulting in a significant loss of time and money.
The problem begins when people abuse the policies at the drop-off centers in Berryville, Green Forest and Holiday Island, which are unmanned.
Some people use the centers for dumping all kinds of inappropriate garbage ---- even syringes, medical waste and, in one case, a child's rubber swimming pool that "had to take 30 minutes to stuff into the bin," said Gary Gray, facility manager at the center in Eureka Springs.
"We've found almost anything you can imagine," he said. Some people are using the drop-off centers as their household garbage disposal units.
"We are a recycling operation," he said, "not a garbage dump."
Besides garbage, the biggest problem is among the glass bottle recycling bins, Gray said.
People are usually using the glass bins for the proper purposes, but many people leave the bottles in paper bags, and even worse, plastic grocery bags.
When a load of glass is trucked to the center in Eureka Springs, it is often full of enough plastic bags and other trash to fill a couple of dumpsters. When a dirty load arrives, "We have to leave it in a big pile, and when we get time later, open every bag, sort it out scoop by scoop and that isn't easy," Gray said.
Cleaning and sorting the glass loads can take two employees at least one day a week, which translates to time and money at the taxpayers' expense.
If a clean load of glass comes in, Gray said, the crew can handle the load in an hour. Eureka Springs isn't as much of a problem because the drop-off site is at the main center, which is always manned by the authority's staff. They can head off violators when they first spot them, and educate them.
The unmanned centers in the other cities are frustrating the staff, because "Recycling is not a money-making enterprise, but the time we loose cleaning up and resorting is inefficient. The people we sell recyclables to want clean loads, or they just won't deal with it." he said.
Simply put, he said, the center can't recycle plastic grocery and trash bags ---- period.
"Wal-Mart and other grocery stores have recycling areas for the grocery bags. Just take the bottle out of the bags. We just need a clean load of glass, and glass only," to be efficient, he said.
"Sorting out the plastic bags really slows us up. We get such big quantities we could easily fill a couple of dumpsters. We hate to see syringes mixed in with anything. It's not a big problem, but it is a dangerous problem."
For some reason, Holiday Island dwellers are probably the worst offenders, but Gray has no idea why. "Berryville is the best of the three unmanned drop-off centers, but some problems exist there too."
Gray said the crews try to examine hazardous or illegal trash and garbage for names, and they will go after an offender through the recycling program's enforcement officer, which can result in court appearances and fines.
Solid Waste Authority Director Roger Miner said "The great majority of people are not the problem, but enough people are abusing the rules that it really creates inefficiency and a lot of extra work."
The authority's spokesperson Debbie Blanchard said the big challenge is education.
"People are willing, but they haven't understood some of the simple rules that allow us to operate efficiently. Some people choose not to use a trash service, so they use us as a dumpster."
Here are some of the guidelines:
Flat and smooth single-layered cardboard, called chipboard, is not accepted. Examples of chipboard are cereal boxes, kleenex boxes, beverage cartons and the like. Please flatten all cardboard.
If you don't follow the guidelines, a note will be left on your bin by the city recycling crews.
There are plenty of pamphlets and guidelines available at the center, and Blanchard encourages anyone to take a tour, and see first-hand how the process works.