Athens-Clarke County is getting a new recycling center

By, Evan Caras

Glass and paper are easily recycled materials.

However, many materials cannot be easily recycled, such as, grease, pesticides, mattresses and batteries.

Athens-Clarke County’s leadership has recently taken steps to ensure that local citizens will be able to recycle new materials-the easy ones as well as well as the hard ones.

In order to recycle those materials, the Athens Commission recently approved a motion to have a recycling center placed at 1005 College Avenue.

However, Jim Corley, the Solid Waste Department Director, said, “there was no money in the budget for such projects since 2008.”

The center itself had been voted for a special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) project.  The center will offer the means to recycle materials that cannot be easily recycled or are potentially hazardous to do so.

To help offset the potential costs of constructing a new building, the center will replace a county-owned building currently used by the police to store evidence.  Their new storage facility will be built at 3035 Lexington Road, Athens, Georgia.

However, the building will be used by the police for evidence storage until their new building will be completed which is expected to be by winter 2015 at the very latest.

The total costs to convert the storage facility into a recycling center are estimated at the Athens-Clarke County website at $193,000.

However, the yearly operating costs ($66,000) will not be included in the SPLOST funds.  The funds themselves can only be used for capital improvements.

The building itself will shift functions in January 2015, according to Corley.

The materials the center will recycle include (but are not limited to) items such as carpet, mattresses, tires, electronics, paints, batteries, and Styrofoam.

 “These materials cannot be picked up at the curb and can often end up in a landfill,” Corley said.

However, on average Solid Waste will also take in roughly 50,000 tons or 100,000,000 pounds of waste annually.  This waste also includes various objects that cannot be recycled without the future center.

The system that the recycling center uses will be different than the one currently used by Solid Waste.

In the current system, the businesses or homes will be given bags for recycling and bags for trash. Solid Waste charges a fee to use the bags for trash, but the bags for recycling are free of charge.

 “Citizens and businesses would have to bring their materials to the facility to be recycled. These are not normal curbside recyclable materials. Some like household chemicals, pesticides, paints, etc. can be considered hazardous. There will be a fee for some of the materials to cover the cost of processing and shipping. Others we get paid for from different vendors so we would not charge a fee.”

The process can be summed up in three steps.

First the consumer will bring their materials that they do not want to throw out, but are not collected under the current system.

After that they might have to pay a fee for certain items (the more hazardous ones).

Finally, once the materials are put in a container, they get sent elsewhere.

However, the biggest issue that faced the recycling center had nothing to do with either funds or the method used!

In reality, the decision of where to place the center was more challenging.

The issue stems from the fact that in order for the recycling center to serve the people it had to be placed somewhere that the average person or small business would be willing to drive to with hard-to-recycle and potentially hazardous materials.

However, to make the problem more difficult, it also should be relatively out of the way so that the traffic would not bother a large number of people.

Eventually the commission picked 1005 College Avenue

The location had two problems; it is very near the University of Georgia and the location functions as a gateway to the city.

In addition, as Kelly Girtz, the District 9 Commissioner, noted in a regular meeting on Feb 4, “more funds would be nice for things such as landscaping.”

The reason why the aesthetics have significance is that the area is on the corner of Cleveland Avenue and it also functions as something a lot of people will see when they come to Athens.

If one of the first things they see is a congested mess then, that will leave a negative impression since the first ones are important.

However, even though the aesthetic issues provided a challenge it might not have been a real choice.

According to Suki Janssen, Waste Reduction Administrator, the commission picked the location since the Clarke County government would not need to transform the existing land and the Clarke County Government owned it.

As a result when the issue came to a vote on February 4, 2014 it was seconded then passed unanimously and quickly.

Nancy Denson, Mayor of Athens, Georgia even noted, “We’re moving fast!”

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