With glass and plastic ending up in the landfill for more than six months, North Charleston has decided to end its recycling program for about 27,000 residents who live in the Dorchester County part of the city.
“I personally think that we have hit a point where even our constituents understand this is not working,” said City Councilman Ron Brinson. “To be picking up recyclables knowing that there is no chance they are going to be recycled ... it just seems like it’s time that we called it quits and wait for a better marketplace.”
Curbside recycling will end on Aug. 1 for about 7,000 North Charleston homes in the Dorchester Road area — at least until an alternative can be found. Residents can still take their recyclables to a Dorchester County convenience site.
“Dorchester County has backed us into a corner with their unwillingness to assist us,” said Councilman Kenny Skipper. “What we’re doing right now isn’t really recycling at all.”
In January, city officials learned residents’ recyclables in Dorchester County were being mixed with household trash for disposal at a landfill. They have been working with the county to allow North Charleston to haul recyclables to Dorchester County’s drop-off sites, but a compromise hasn’t been reached.
“We will continue to try to work together on it,” said Dorchester County Councilman Larry Hargett. “We have had several meetings with them, but we don’t have the answer yet.”
It would have cost about $20,000 for Dorchester to accept North Charleston’s recyclables, Brinson said.
Residents in the area pay a $75 solid waste disposal fee annually to the county. Collectively, that’s about $500,000 that goes to the county each year from North Charleston residents, but the area receives less than $400,000 in services, Brinson said.
The fee pays for disposal cost at the landfill and the operation of the county’s convenience sites, according to Dorchester County Public Works Director Jason Carraher.
Dorchester County does not offer curbside pickup but operates five convenience centers where residents can recycle paper, plastic, glass and metal. Most North Charleston residents live in Charleston County, which handles recyclables for that part of the city.
Residents of the city in Dorchester County have had curbside pickup for more than a decade, officials said. Commingled plastic and metal were collected one week and paper products the next.
“We created a (recycling) truck to pick up recyclables to accommodate the needs up there,” Summey said. “We run a second route to pick it up. As long as the product was being disposed of properly, it was fine, but now we are picking it up and it’s going to the same landfill as the garbage, so it makes no sense.”
North Charleston is not the only entity facing issues with its recycling. Summerville and Berkeley and Dorchester counties have also recently made changes to their programs.
When the price of oil dropped, recycling became less profitable nationwide. Cheap oil means that new plastic can cost less than plastic created from recycled materials.
Locally, the problem was exacerbated last year when Charleston County closed its recycling center after its contract with Sonoco ended. The Romney Street Materials Recovery Facility also processed material from other local entities, including Dorchester and Berkeley counties.
Charleston started trucking its recyclables to Horry County, but that arrangement wasn’t open to all of Sonoco’s former clients, and alternative options — such as hauling recyclables to Sonoco’s Columbia facility — have been deemed too expensive. Charleston’s new recycling center is expected to open in Fall 2017.
Since November, only cardboard and paper have been recycled in Summerville, while officials have considered several options to restore its entire curbside program. Town Council is considering an opt-in program, where residents will contract directly with a recycling company.
Starting Sept. 1, Berkeley County drop-off sites will accept only paper and cardboard, while other recyclables will be mixed with household trash and go to the landfill. Berkeley does not offer countywide curbside recycling, but residents can contract with a company.