Changes coming to Berkeley County recycling centers

Berkeley County Administration Building

Berkeley County residents who have been taking recyclables to drop-off sites will see some changes soon.

Starting Sept. 1, only paper and cardboard will be recycled, while other recyclables will be mixed with household trash and go to the landfill.

The council’s Human Resources and Purchasing committee voted unanimously Monday to accept an amendment that extends its contract with Sonoco for one year.

The issue will go before the full council at its July 25 meeting.

If council does not agree to the amendment, the contract will end on Aug. 31 and there will be no recycling at Berkeley’s nine manned and 13 unmanned convenience center and drop-off locations.

The change does not affect residents who contract for curbside pickup from private companies, officials said.

The proposed amendment also gives the county an option to bring all recyclables — including plastic, aluminum and metal — to Sonoco’s Columbia facility, but county officials felt the cost was too high for what it hopes is a short-term fix.

“Without significantly raising the rates, hauling all recyclables to Sonoco’s Columbia location for single-stream recycling is unfeasible,” said Councilman Josh Whitley, who chairs the committee.

“The good news is that Berkeley was proactive and will have a recycling option with greater participation in the near future. Luckily for those of us who favor recycling, the problem should be short-lived.”

In November, the county inked a deal with RePower South that calls for all of the county’s garbage to be brought to an as-yet-unbuilt facility near the landfill, where some recyclables will be pulled out for recycling and some of the remaining polymers and fibers will be made into pellets that can be sold as fuel for coal plants and converted into electricity.

What’s left will go in the landfill.

County officials said Tuesday they are unsure of a timetable for the facility’s construction.

“While Repower South continues to work through the permitting process, they also continue to reaffirm their commitment to Berkeley County to provide single-stream recycling for the residents,” said county spokesman Michael Mule.

Last year, Sonoco decided against renewing a contract with Charleston County because it was no longer able to operate the Romney Street recycling facility economically, Sonoco manager of Corporate Communications Brian Risinger said at the time.

The facility closed and Charleston County started trucking its recyclables to Horry County, but that arrangement wasn’t open to all of Sonoco’s former clients.

Charleston’s new recycling center is expected to open in the fall of 2017.

“We agreed to continue to transport and process (Berkeley’s) materials under our previous contract in good faith to fulfill our commitment and contractual obligations to the community,” Risinger said Tuesday.

Recycling issues are not unique to the Lowcountry, he said. “Recycling centers across the country have stopped accepting (metals and glass) — some of it driven by the destruction those materials do to equipment, but much of it driven by the economics of recycling,” he said Tuesday.

In some cases, the raw materials are less expensive than recycled material, he said.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713.