Businesses still struggling to comply with recycling ordinances a year after deadline

By Evelyn Andrews

Krysten Dryfus finishes a milk container, but walks past the trash can to her outdoor closet where she stores her recyclables. Dryfus lives at the Connection at Athens and she is not aware of any recycling at the complex, so she keeps her recyclables and takes them to a recycling center.

“I just want to help the environment and recycle, but it’s so difficult and inconvenient because I have to collect all my trash and take it to a recycling center,” said Krysten Dryfus. “I wish more apartments in Athens recycled like they do in the dorms at [The University of Georgia].”

Under an Athens-Clarke County ordinance that took effect on Jan. 1, 2014, businesses and apartment complexes are required to have recycling bins, educate residents and customers about their recycling program and have adequate recycling space.

It turns out that the Connection does have recycling bins, but residents seem to be unaware of them because the apartment has failed to educate their residents at the proper level, said Joe Dunlap, a commercial recycling specialist at the Athens-Clarke County recycling division.

“If an apartment complex installs a recycling Dumpster and doesn’t tell anybody about it, yes, they are recycling but they’re not compliant with the ordinance,” he said.

“All residents are given information on recycling the day of move-in and we do encourage them to utilize the resources provided,” said Melissa Brand, the bookkeeper at the apartment.

However, Dryfus said that she doesn’t remember receiving information and has not heard about recycling programs since moving in.

Apartments are also not compliant if they do not have adequate recycling space. The Connection has one recycling container, the same size as a typical garbage disposal container, Brand said. However, Dunlop said one container is not enough space for a complex of that size.

Dunlop said about one-third of all businesses in Athens, which includes apartments, comply with the regulations. The number is fluid, Dunlop said, but a January Red & Black article said about 74 out of 284 apartments comply. Many apartments that are not compliant do have recycling, but lack education.

“A lot of apartments have put recycling in place, but it hasn’t been promoted as well as I would like and there is not the education level that I would like for residents,” Dunlop said.

Other businesses or apartment complexes are either unaware of the ordinances or waiting to see if Athens-Clarke County will enforce them. The recycling division is now pursuing businesses that don’t comply with the regulations more aggressively since the deadline to comply was Jan. 1, 2014.

“We are now more aggressively going after those that are not compliant,” Dunlop said. “If we have been working with somebody for a while and they still do not have the recycling in place, then there is a process where we turn them over to code enforcement and they are issued a citation.”

The Club apartment complex is the most recent to be turned over to code enforcement, Dunlop said, but an apartment representative reported that they do now have recycling.

The county has a benchmark to reduce waste in 2015 by 40 percent from levels in 2010 and Dunlop said they are ahead of schedule. The county has reduced waste by 47 percent and is working toward their next objective – reducing waste by 60 percent in 2018 and 75 percent in 2020.

All of this work by the county was in jeopardy of being stopped before completion. Earlier this month, the Georgia Senate passed a bill, Senate Bill 139, intended to prohibit local governments from restricting the use of plastic bags.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Athens Sen. Frank Ginn, also would have had significant consequences for Athens – it originally eliminated local governments’ ability to regulate recycling. This would have overturned the ordinances that require businesses and apartments to recycle.

However, work by Jerry NeSmith, the ACC District 6 commissioner, and Dunlop helped convince legislators to change the language so that local governments still had control over

regulations. NeSmith argued in an opinion piece for Athens-Banner Herald that the bill “does exactly the wrong things.”

Environmental factors also motivated NeSmith to try to stop bill, citing statistics that 24 million tons of plastic are disposed of every year and less than two million are recycled.

“My effort was, of course, to completely kill the whole idea of not allowing us to have ordinances regulating plastic bags,” NeSmith said, “but at the very least, don’t make us go backwards by making our existing recycling ordinances illegal.”

Although the part of the bill that would overturn the county’s ordinances has most likely been changed, it may still be included when it leaves the House Rules Committee.

“We’ll have to wait and see what comes out of the Rules Committee, but I believe we have been successful in changing that part of the proposal,” NeSmith said.

Dryfus is grateful that the bill has been rewritten so that recycling will continue to become easier for her and others in the community.

“I’m glad the bill won’t make it so that Athens business don’t have to recycle,” Dryfus said. “I hope the Connection starts to make it easier to recycle and more businesses and apartments start to recycle.”


Pawnbroker ordinance amendment passed

by Chari Sutherland

It was standing-room only at the April 6 commission meeting.  Many small business owners were in attendance to protest a proposed amendment to an ordinance governing pawnbrokers. 

The amendment, proposed by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department (ACCPD), will require all pawnbrokers to begin using an electronic ticketing system, to hold items an additional 20 days before allowing them to be sold and to require customers to show picture identification before pawning items. 

 During public comments, Lori Reeves, of the Athens Pawn Shop, asked that the commission vote no on the amendment.  “This (amendment) will bring dramatic changes for the livelihood of at least a dozen small businesses,” she said.  She said the current ordinance is sufficient.  “Most of the stolen property is sold on the streets by criminals, not in pawnshops.”  Perry Reeves said many of their customers repeatedly pawn the same items just to get some extra money, then return to pick up the items. 

Though his business has required that customers show identification for forty-two years, Reeves was concerned about customers losing more confidentiality.    

The amendment was suggested in writing by Chief of Police, Joseph Lumpkin, on February 4.  In his detailed report to the commissioners, he requested that pawnbrokers “electronically report their transactions on a daily basis rather than by weekly paper document.”  The report also said Georgia law authorizes the police department to request such a change.  Lumpkin also wrote in the report that there has been an increase in burglaries in the last three years, with small electronics being the most common items stolen.  

ACCPD will be able to track items received in pawnshops from their headquarters through an internet database, rather than sending a detective out to collect copies of pawn tickets and manually looking through all of them.  In November, there were 1,549 paper pawn tickets, according to Lumpkin’s report.

On the opposite side of the issue, many pawnbrokers complained at the commission meeting that new regulations will make their work more tedious.  Thornton said being required to take a picture and write a detailed description of each piece of jewelry will require more time.   He said that official should consider that many of the dealers take in only certain types of jewelry, so there will often be over 100 individual and identical pieces of jewelry.  “A lot of things not adequately thought out,” he said. 

“I’m not thrilled about having to spend one to two more hours a day meeting new guidelines,” said Dale Duncan of Duncan’s Fine Jewelry on Atlanta Highway.   He said some dealers may have to spend about 30 minutes more on an item just to enter it into the system. 

“This will cause people who do a large portion of buying to probably do illegal things,” he said.  “They may be a day or two late entering their information or not enter it at all.”  To comply may require longer days or adding more labor, which will raise the dealer’s costs. 

All pawnbrokers were concerned about financing the new system.  Joe Thornton of Thornton’s Pawn Center on Lexington Avenue said the pawnbrokers weren’t given enough time to look over the proposed changes to the ordinance.  “You’re putting a financial burden on store owners,” he told the commission.  “The proposal doesn’t specify equipment we’d have to use.  We need more understanding of what’s being required.”

Lori Reeves said the extra $25 registration fee required each year and a $25 precious metal license for dealers that sell precious metals is “over and above what we already pay in (business license) fees.”

Though the commission did not specifically address the concerns about the extra fees or having to implement equipment/services (computer, digital camera and internet service) that some dealers may not already have, it was pointed out that ACCPD will purchase the software system for $11,000 through the police department’s general fund budget.  

Commissioner Kelly Girtz said Chief Lumpkin’s request for the amendment “is judious”.  “I think this is going to bring us in line with the state and allow us to communicate with other jurisdictions as well.” 

Girtz motioned to approve the amendment.  It was seconded and all commissioners voted in favor. 

With the passing of this ordinance amendment, ACCPD joins police departments of Alpharetta, Cartersville, Cobb County and Gwinnett County in requiring an electronic recording system.  Chief Lumpkin’s report said, “These agencies report that electronic pawn reporting has improved efficiency and enabled the agencies to recover stolen property while identifying burglary suspects on a regular basis.” 

Now approximately a month until the May 24 deadline of full implementation, Thornton’s Pawn Center isn’t yet prepared for the change.  “I haven’t started implementing any of it and I won’t until May first,” Joe Thornton said.

Today at Athens Pawn, owner Perry Reeves isn’t close to being ready.  Since he’s still using handwritten tickets, he doesn’t own a computer or have internet access.  Dale Duncan at Duncan’s Fine Jewelry said he’s logged onto the site and registered to use it.