After storing a month's worth of recyclables under a tarp at a West Ashley landfill, Charleston County has resurrected its old Romney Street center for sorting cardboard, metal, aluminum and plastic.
And County Council hopes to resume construction on a far larger recycling center off Palmetto Commerce Parkway in North Charleston, but it still must sort through contractual issues and agree on a new price tag.
Work on a new $24 million recycling center was stopped in October 2017 when the contractor, Mashburn Construction, voiced concerns about the stability of the soil. In April 2018, County Council also agreed to delay the project to rethink its size and configuration.
Council members got a look at plans Thursday that would build a new center with about 5,000 more square feet than the earlier plan, as well as room to expand further. The larger size would allow the center to accept materials from other counties, County Councilman Brantley Moody said.
"I think we wisely stopped," he said.
Meanwhile, the county had been sending its recyclable materials, both from large residential blue bins and convenience centers, to Horry County. But the cost of doing that was more than $100,000 and kept rising. Meanwhile, the county not only didn't receive income from materials sold, but it also had to take a lot of it back.
In April 2018, the county shipped 218 loads of recyclables to Horry County, but 74 loads of material made an expensive round trip from Charleston County to Horry and back to Charleston's Bees Ferry Landfill, county spokesman Shawn Smetana said.
The economics of recycling have posed increasing challenges to local governments, as China scales back its imports of the materials.
The county stopped those shipments earlier this year and stored all recyclables for a month under a tarp at Bees Ferry.
Moody said that material ultimately got wet and could not be recycled. "We're in the process of landfilling that material," Moody said. "It’s just unfortunate. We know the citizens aren’t going to be happy with it.”
The Romney Street center — originally closed by the county in 2016 because of escalating costs — has been reopened but still has its share of problems, including machinery and power issues, Environmental Management Engineer Robert Lawing said.
“We have had some challenges since we started operating,” he said Thursday. "We are on a three-day run where we haven’t had any issues at all. That’s a record for us.”
In the coming weeks, County Council could consider a new construction contract and a new price tag for resuming work on the Palmetto Commerce site. Moody said, if all goes well, it could open before fall 2020.
That center not only would include ample space to sort through cardboard, glass, aluminum and other material, but it also would include offices and educational space, as well as room to store and service the county's fleet of recycling trucks.