Charleston County Trash Plan

Curtis Ross picks up a load of recyclables Thursday afternoon in downtown Charleston.

Trash disposal in Charleston County is about to get a major makeover.

County Council's Finance Committee, which includes all council members, at its meeting Thursday unanimously approved nine strategies to dispose of solid waste more efficiently and meet the goal of boosting recycling to 40 percent of the solid waste stream.

Some of those strategies include:

--Transferring some of the garbage to disposal facilities outside the county.

--Composting all of the yard waste that comes to the Bees Ferry Landfill.

--Developing an ordinance to increase the recycling of construction and demolition debris.

--Developing a short list of companies interested in providing emerging waste conversion technologies.

The council will take a final vote on the issue at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Chairman Teddie Pryor said the county is striving to have "the best solid waste program in the Southeast," and he said the strategies, which are the first step in revamping the county's trash disposal system, will lead to "a plan that's beneficial for everybody and will work for years down the road."

It won't dump the trash burden on any one geographic area or group of people, Pryor added.

Mitch Kessler, a consultant hired by the county to help develop a comprehensive program for solid waste, said that "a new world order for solid waste in Charleston County begins today."

The county has been working on a solid waste program for nearly a year.

The county currently burns more than 70 percent of its garbage in an incinerator, or waste-to-energy facility, in North Charleston. It dumps the rest in a landfill on Bees Ferry Road.

The council voted in January 2008 not to renew a contract with Montenay Charleston Recovery Resources, the company that runs the North Charleston incinerator. It continued negotiations with Montenay until May 2009 and then voted to stop negotiations and move on to other trash disposal methods.

Residents who live in the neighborhoods near the facility complained about the smoke, stench and noise. They said the facility was harming their health and quality of life.

Pryor and Councilman Elliott Summey, both of whom represent North Charleston, said the people who live in Union Heights and other Neck Area neighborhoods can breathe a sigh of relief. The incinerator will close, and the site will not be used as a garbage transfer station or for any other garbage-related uses.

"There's no more garbage in Union Heights. That ain't gonna happen," Summey said.

County attorney Joe Dawson said one of the strategies the committee approved Thursday is to manage the closing and transition processes for the incinerator.

Now the county owns the land and AT&T owns the building. But under the contract, the county will own the land and the building after the facility closes. Dawson said the county hasn't yet decided what it will do with the site.

One of the strategies approved Thursday that could prove controversial is the decision to transfer some of the garbage to other counties.

Pryor said the county hasn't made any decisions on where the trash will go. But, he said, it would not all go to one place, and it could go to either public or private facilities. County staffers have had discussions on the issue. And they soon will start negotiating contracts for short-term waste disposal.

The strategies also include looking for:

--Ways to make the county's existing facilities and employees more efficient and accountable.

--Public-private partnerships to better handle solid waste

--Opportunities for regional solid-waste solutions.

The county also plans to study the area's garbage to identify the percentage of recyclable materials that are being thrown in the trash. Kessler said that information is essential "base-line" data when exploring new disposal options.

County Administrator Allen O'Neal said the county is also very concerned about cost.

"The goal is to keep it as efficient as it is at the moment or more efficient," he said.

Pryor said he couldn't yet estimate when a new comprehensive program will be complete and put in place. But, he said, council members and county staffers are ready now to move forward.

"It's time for action," he said. "But we'll go step by step and do it right the first time."

Reach Diane Knich at dknich@postandcourier.com or 937-5491.