-Recycling stations plagued by pests
Those who recycle on a regular basis complain about overflowing bins and problems with bees, rodents and odors.
Scott Martin, who oversees Lumpkin County’s recycling program can relate. He and the men who work with him at the recycling center on Red Oak Flats Road experience the same problems—and others as well.
“If people wouldn’t throw their garbage in the bins, they wouldn’t get full. If they didn’t get full, people wouldn’t leave bags and stacks of stuff on top of or around the bins, and it wouldn’t look so bad,” Martin said. “And we wouldn't have to spend time separating the trash from the recyclables.”
If people would rinse out their soda cans and bottles, bees—and rodents—would not be attracted to the bins. It would also cut down on odor, Martin said.
And if they threw the materials in the correct bins, that would save time as well.
“[It] costs taxpayers extra money,” said County Manager Stan Kelley. “In addition to being unsightly, [it] consumes county staff time, adds additional wear and tear and fuel costs to county vehicles leading to the use of more of your tax dollars.”
The recycling center has one full time and one part time employee, plus an inmate from the county jail most days. Each time a full truck of recycling comes into the facility it takes three-plus hours for the men to separate the materials from the trash.
“We get 10 to 12 bags of trash every load,” Martin said. “On a perfect day we would pick up the bins, off-load them and everything would go straight into the compactor. That never happens,” Martin said.
Martin estimates about 35 percent of the plastic that is collected is non-recyclable material, Kelley said.
In tax dollars wasted, it works out to about $1,104 a month—$891 in salaries, $166 in fuel costs and $97.50 in garbage collection fees, according to county staff.
Much of the garbage that ends up in the bins is plastic that is not recyclable—plastic wrap, bags from grocery and other stores, yogurt containers, prepared food container packaging such as that used on rotisserie chicken from the deli or containers of cut fruit. That last one in particular is a big problem, Martin said.
“It’s marked #1, but we only take #1 and #2 plastics that have screw tops—and the tops need to be removed. Otherwise the machine won’t compact it properly,” he said.
The two types of plastic accepted should be placed in different bins as well, Martin said. Clear plastic, such as bottled water comes in, is #1. Non-clear, such as milk jugs, is usually #2.
“But to be sure look on the bottom. There will be a number in a triangle that tells you which is which. And not all bottles with screw tops are #1 or #2,” Martin said.
Aluminum cans should be separated from other types of cans as well. While these are not marked, it is easy to tell by the weight, Martin said.
PAPER VS. CARDBOARD
All kinds of paper—newsprint, magazines, office paper, junk mail, old phone books and paperboard such as cereal boxes and six-pack containers—are recyclable in the paper bins.
The cardboard bins are restricted to corrugated boxes and material.
Last year Lumpkin Countians recycled nearly 400,000 pounds of material.
Martin said he believes “most people are genuinely worried about the earth. They can help us by recycling the proper materials in the proper way.”
Recycling bins are located at Highway 9 and Torrington Drive, off the Morrison Moore bypass at Radar Ridge and during business hours at the recycling center, 1642 Red Oak Flats Road.