In 2016, after much study and leadership from our Green Ribbon Advisory Committee, the City of Greenville transitioned its curbside recycling program from a dual-stream, manual collection system with an 18-gallon recycling bin to a single-stream, automated collection system with a 95-gallon roll cart. The goals were to improve employee safety, lower program costs, streamline operations, and increase participation.
So, how did we do? With the first year of our “All In. Recycling Simplified.” campaign behind us, we have some wonderful improvements to highlight in our target areas.
First, the recycling participation rate in the city has increased to 70 percent. Technically, “all in” means that all of your recycling can go in your “Big Blue” roll cart, but for the program to be most effective, “all in” also has to mean that everyone participates. To increase participation even more, the City’s recycling team will soon introduce a new program to engage more residents by rewarding individual residents who recycle, so be ready for that knock on your door.
While no longer accepting glass has changed the tonnage of materials substantially, our overall tonnage has risen in-line with our increased participation rate and the additional items we accept.
The quality of the recyclables that we collect and send to Pratt Industries, our recycling partner, has also improved. Our contamination rate (the percentage of materials that are not recyclable) is down to under 15 percent.
Additionally, since we implemented the automated collection system, we have had no injuries among our recycling collection employees.
City residents currently pay a monthly fee of $16.00, which is included in their monthly water bill, for recycling, household trash, and yard waste pickup and disposal. Commercial businesses and multi-family residences do not receive City solid waste collection services, and therefore do not pay a fee. The solid waste fee and sale of recyclable materials cover approximately 55 percent of the total operations cost, with the balance of the cost funded by property taxes and other City revenues.
As citizen participation rates increase, the cost of operating the recycling program will go up, but the income we receive for the recyclable materials will also go up, and the amount the City pays in tipping fees at the landfill will go down. Hopefully, in the long run, we can avoid additional landfills in Greenville County.
A question we are always asked is what happened to glass? Simply put, the company the City sold glass to no longer buys it. While there is currently no viable processor for glass in the Upstate and transporting it to neighboring states is not economically feasible, we will continue seeking other opportunities to address the glass issue and improve the system.
As a reminder, the city accepts the following types of recyclable materials:
- Plastic bottles, jugs and containers (numbers 1–7)
- Paper (newspapers, mixed paper, cardboard, magazines, junk mail)
- Aseptic containers (milk/juice cartons, drink boxes)
- Aluminum and metal cans
Scrap metal, appliances, and tires are also accepted, although residents must call 864-467-4345 to schedule a pickup rather than placing them in their blue recycling roll cart.
All food and beverage containers must be rinsed out before being placed in the cart, as this prevents recyclables from smelling or attracting rodents and insects, and helps maintain the value of the recyclable material. Putting any trash, food, or yard waste in the recycling cart will contaminate the whole load. Another tip is not crushing aluminum cans before placing them in the recycling cart. The process used to separate aluminum cans from the other materials actually works better when the cans are not crushed. Additional information about recycling in the City of Greenville is available online at recycle.greenvillesc.gov.
The changes we have made to our recycling program are expected to save taxpayers approximately $2 million over the next 10 years, and the automated collection system now in place will keep our employees out of harm’s way. However, like any good business, the City must plan ahead and be solution focused for its citizens, so we will continue to address improvements in operations and the expansion of services.
We want to thank all of our citizens who have been “all in” this past year and encourage everyone to support our efforts to keep the green in Greenville.
Gaye Sprague and Amy Ryberg Doyle are Greenville City Council members.