By Randy Garrison
Several folks have shared their concerns about the recent suspension of the recycling program here in Hartselle. I wanted to clarify and hopefully shed some light on why this difficult decision was reached.
The citizens in Hartselle have always participated very well in the recycling program, and this has been good for the City of Hartselle and the environment to help lower the amount of household garbage that takes up space in local landfills; however, in current times, there is not a viable option to dispose of the material once it is collected.
Just a little background and history of the recycling program:
When the current program was put into operation in the early 2000s, recycling actually generated a revenue stream for the City of Hartselle. The city was receiving payment for the material that was collected from households. The company that purchased the recycled material was also furnishing all equipment necessary to handle the material once it was picked up at each home. This included a trailer to place the material in and a machine to compact it. The company also sent a driver to the city’s landfill and picked up the trailer once it was full of recycled material.
In recent years, this program has changed from receiving revenue, to receiving no revenue, to the City of Hartselle actually having to pay the company to take the material that was picked up from households in our city.
This same company – that was handling the recycled material, which included hauling it away – has since closed its doors.
As other obstacle, many recycling programs depend on inexpensive inmate labor to be able to operate, and during the current COVID-19 situation, this inmate labor is not available. Many of the centers could not operate if they were required to pay even minimum wage to workers to sort the material.
Another big challenge for recycling programs occurred when China stopped purchasing recycling material. This left a large void in the market for the material and created a bad situation for recycling.
The City of Hartselle Public Works Department has been searching for available outlets for the recycled material generated by the households in our City.
At this time, the only outlet that is available would involve transporting the material to Chattanooga or Birmingham and paying a high tonnage rate to dispose of the material.
Now, we have recently found and are researching another option.
A private company in Huntsville is looking to expand operations. This company has an incinerator and burns household garbage to dispose of the material. The process also generates steam, which provides power for Redstone Arsenal. The process takes tons of garbage and has an end product of a small amount of ash as residual matter.
While this would not be “recycling” in the truest sense, the process would prevent the material from having to be placed in a landfill.
Further information should be available on this possibility in the near future.
All at the City of Hartselle hope to resume recycling in the future for all of our citizens.
Please stay tuned for further updates.