Recycling is now free in DeKalb County thanks to a unanimous Sept. 25 vote by the county’s Board of Commissioners.
Commissioners approved the plan to drop the $30 recycling registration fee, hoping that more residents would join the program.
“This is a great day in DeKalb County,” said DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson, during a press conference in which the fee waiver was announced. “Now you can save not only from a monetary standpoint but also from a standpoint of saving the environment.
“I think it’s very important, and not for the sense of it being free, but what it can do to increase recycling in DeKalb, help the environment, and really put us on the path of what we espouse, which is to be one of the greenest counties in the country,” Johnson said.
Currently, the county has 20 percent participation, but the goal is 41 percent, just above the national average.
“As we strive to be the greenest county, this is a step in the right direction,” Johnson said.
According to Amber Weaver, director of Keep DeKalb Beautiful, approximately 34,000 households recycle. County officials want to double that number in approximately 48 months.
A fact sheet by DeKalb County states that “more than half of the waste that goes to the Seminole Road landfill could have been recycled.”
Since the county began its recycling program in 2005, approximately 57,000 tons of material—“the weight of 9,500 elephants”—have been recycled, creating more capacity at the landfill, according to the fact sheet.
Saving the landfill is a benefit of recycling, said Commissioner Kathie Gannon. “We cannot afford to expand our landfill into our communities. It has to serve us forever.”
“We started recycling in 2005…and we’ve been steadily increasing,” Gannon said. “We hit 20 percent of households recycling and we sort of plateaued out. And what we’re hearing from the community is that removing this fee for startup costs will help increase that. We want to hit 41 percent. The national average is 40 percent.”
Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton said, “This is a big deal and I’m positive we’re going to make our goal.”
“I know a lot of residents who are interested in recycling but they didn’t feel that they should pay that $30 for the bin,” Sutton said.
The fee waiver “plus an aggressive campaign will actually make our county one of the top counties in recycling,” Sutton said. “I don’t think it is enough to say the bins are free. There has to be a very aggressive public education campaign.”
The DeKalb County recycling program collects mixed paper including cardboard, catalogs, magazines, newspapers and junk mail. The paper products go into county-provided blue bins. In blue plastic bags, participants place glass, plastics, aluminum and tin.
Recyclable materials are collected by the county’s sanitation department on Wednesdays.
LuAnn Chambers, regional procurement manager for SP Recycling, the company that processes DeKalb’s recyclables, said, “Most of the [recyclable materials] go right here in markets locally. It’s a huge economic impact for the southeast. It really helps develop jobs in this area too.”
For example, paper and cardboard goes to SP Fiber Technologies, a 100 percent recycled products paper mill in Dublin, Ga., where newsprint and brown paper bag stock are made. Most plastic bottles are turned into carpets by companies in north Georgia or are turned into bottles for use by Coca-Cola.
Approximately 80 percent of normal household trash is recyclable, Chambers said.
The county makes approximately $600,000 in recycling, which helps reduce sanitation department costs, Gannon said.
Residents can get more information and join the program by going to www.dekalbrecycles.com.