County recycling growing by leaps and bounds
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Morgan County residents increased the amount of materials that they sent to an Athens recycling facility in fiscal year 2008 by 37 percent over fiscal year 2007, said county officials this week.
In a recent annual report put out by the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department Recycling Division, Morgan County leads the facilities contributing to that center in recycling, sending 258 tons of mixed paper, bottles, and cans to the center last year. Of counties and municipalities sending their recycling to Athens-Clarke, Oglethorpe County was just behind Morgan County with 238 tons; in third place was the City of Monroe, with 80 tons of recyclables. Walton, Madison, Greene, Hart, Elbert, and Oconee counties, as well as the city of Washington, also send their recycling material to Athens-Clarke, but Morgan County sends the most.
“Morgan County was the county that did the best of all the counties they serve,” said county special project coordinator Monica Hayden.
The county has 16 recycling centers used by residents—typically paired with county trash collection containers--that are periodically emptied and sent to Athens by Morgan solid waste officials, and use has been growing over the past couple of years.
“Once people start recycling, they look for more things to recycle—and it just becomes a habit,” said Linda Thoman, of Keep Morgan Beautiful.
Even better, the county has recently negotiated a profit-sharing deal with Athens-Clarke Recycling that means that Morgan actually gets money back for the recyclable material it generates. The first check, received last month, totaled $2,000. The county receives $25 for each ton of paper that it recycles, and $45 for each ton of bottles and cans.
That money goes a tiny way toward offsetting the cost of hauling Morgan County’s non-recyclable garbage to the Oak Grove landfill in Barrow County, a service which costs the county $33.75 per ton, said Hayden. Since Morgan County last year sent about 17,000 tons of trash to Oak Grove, that bill is annually a hefty half a million dollars-plus.
Still, the increased recycling is having an impact on the total waste stream, said Thoman.
“We actually sent more waste to Barrow County in FY07 than we did in FY 08…and our population is growing, so how do you account for that? We must be recycling more, and that’s exciting,” said Thoman.