With Earth Day 2014 approaching, I wish to extend my gratitude to the residents of Charleston County for supporting efforts to green our community and promote sustainability to future generations. As your council chairman, I am proud of the programs the Environmental Management Department has in place to enable residents to act as stewards of our local environment. The vision of Charleston County Council is for the county's solid waste management system to become the premier program in the Southeast.
The county's successful residential single-stream recycling program continues to incrementally expand throughout the county, with 87,000 single-family households currently being offered All-In-One recycling service. For those remaining areas still receiving curbside dual-stream recycling service, the county plans to deliver single-stream recycling roll carts by June 1.
In addition, the following areas will also be receiving curbside single-stream recycling service: Tupelo in Mount Pleasant, Buckshire in Ladson, and portions of Highway 162 past Stono Ferry.
The county continues to observe an increase in the amount of recyclable material collected through the All-In-One service, with an average of 21 pounds per home per pick-up, compared with the 10 pounds per home per pick-up in areas using the dual stream service. Additionally, the county has observed participation rates as high as 70 percent in All-In-One areas, compared with an average 35 percent participation rate in the dual-stream service areas.
Environmental Management staff has also expanded the county's multi-family (condos, apartments, etc.) recycling service to include 300 complexes. Currently this is a cart-based, dual-stream program that will be converted to single-stream service utilizing eight yard dumpsters by this summer.
In November 2011, the county banned the disposal of yard waste in plastic bags. Shortly thereafter, in 2012, Charleston County was the first in the state to be permitted by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to process commercial food waste.
The addition of food waste, which adds nutrients, and the elimination of plastic contaminants, have enhanced the overall quality of the compost produced at the Bees Ferry compost facility, making it a more marketable product for sale to residents and businesses.
Record-breaking numbers were achieved last year, with sales of finished compost increasing by 87 percent.
Incoming food-waste tonnage has increased by 250 percent with over 2,800 tons received last year compared with 800 tons the previous year.
The growth can be attributed to the "farm to table to farm" movement here in Charleston. Food-waste recovery not only saves valuable landfill space but also leads to a reduction in the amount of garbage generated. Additionally, the intake of food-waste tonnage supports County Council's 40 percent recycling goal across the county.
The county's Greening Schools program, which offers recycling collection and education to all Charleston County School District schools, has expanded to include the recovery of food waste for composting at 31 elementary and middle schools. Other new initiatives this year have included efforts to increase the number of student green teams and a student video contest to raise recycling awareness and participation.
Special events generate a significant amount of waste within a short time frame. Environmental Management staff has designed a program to increase recycling at events by offering the use of ClearStream recycling bins for the collection of recyclables and food waste.
The county lends these bins to event organizers so they can collect recyclables and food waste.
Following the event, bagged recyclable material, excluding food waste, is dropped off at any Charleston County recycling drop site location or convenience center. In 2013, bins were borrowed for over 55 events.
Thank you for participating in the county's recycling programs! County Council and our Environmental Management Department encourage you to remember to recycle at work, home and play.
Join us at Riverfront Park in North Charleston to celebrate Earth Day 2014 on Saturday, April 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The day will be filled with great local food, music and fun environmental and science-based learning activities for children, with over 70 exhibits.
For more information, visit the event's website at earthday.charlestoncounty.org or call Charleston County's Environmental Management Department at (843) 720-7111.
Teddie E. Pryor Sr. is chairman of Charleston County Council.