Charleston County residents are recycling so much more under the "All-In-One" program, that cities and towns are beginning to see a reduction in the amount of trash they collect.
The program, which allows residents to mix all of their recyclables in one large bin instead of separating them, has increased both the number of residents who recycle and the amount they put out on the curb every other week, county officials have said.
Single-stream recycling is credited by officials with either reducing or keeping the amount of garbage that has to be collected and hauled to landfills from growing significantly while the area's population has soared.
Carolyn Carusos, the county's recycling manager, said the program was launched as a pilot program in 2011, and phased in over the next few years. The final homes to be enrolled in the program received their big, blue roll carts a few weeks ago.
Officials with some of the county's largest municipalities, including Mount Pleasant, the James Island Public Service District and the city of Charleston said the program has reduced the amount of trash they have to pick up. In Charleston County, the county collects recyclables, but the cities and towns pick up trash.
Recycling collection is paid for by a $99 solid waste user fee on residents' property tax bills. The recycling giant Sonoco processes the materials at the county's recycling facility. Sonoco then sells the material. The company and the county have a revenue-sharing arrangement for money brought in from the sale of recyclables.
Jody Peele, director of public services for the Town of Mount Pleasant, said in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, before the new recycling program got underway, the town collected 23,180 tons of trash. But in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, it collected only 20,845 tons of trash, despite an increase in the population.
Peele attributes the drop to the recycling program. "It's the only thing I can think of," he said.
And it means savings for town residents. Garbage trucks now make fewer trips to the landfill, he said, so they save on fuel and wear and tear on the equipment.
Carusos said Mount Pleasant has the county's highest recycling rate. "It's always at the top of the list," she said.
Mike Metzler, deputy director of operations for the city of Charleston's Public Service Department, said the city has collected between 36,000 and 37,000 tons of trash each year between 2010 and 2013. But its population has grown. In 2010, it collected trash from 44,500 households; that jumped to 46,200 in 2013.
Metzler said single-stream recycling likely contributed to the amount of trash collected remaining stable.
Robert Wise, district manager for the James Island Public Service District, said the county started delivering roll carts to island residents in June of 2012. Since then, the amount of trash the district collects has declined by about 5 percent, he said.
North Charleston spokesman Ryan Johnson said the city doesn't have numbers available. And he thinks it's still too early to tell what the impact of single-stream recycling will be.
"It hasn't been implemented in all of our neighborhoods for long enough with some homes just receiving the roll carts last week," he said. "Historically, we have seen increases in trash every year due to population growth and more homes being built in North Charleston. As time passes, and residents are fully educated about what they should and should not recycle, we feel that we will see an impact."
Carusos said the county collected 12,661 tons of recyclables through its curbside collection program in 2010. That number jumped to 20,657 in 2013. And, she added, the program increased recycling rates in all parts of the county.
For instance, she said, a James Island route that produced 34 tons of recyclables under the old program now brings in about 59 tons. And the North Charleston neighborhoods of Dorchester Terrace, Glyn Terrace and Oakridge produced about 2.3 tons of recyclables under the old program, but with single-stream, they bring in about 7.9 tons.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491