Haywood County’s new solid waste director intends for the county to dump the dubious distinction of being the only one in Western North Carolina not recycling glass.
Stephen King, who came to Haywood County in February after holding previous solid waste-related jobs in Wake, Guilford and Macon counties, isn’t prepared to say when a glass recycling program would be available, only that it’s a priority.
“We’re working toward it,” he said. “But we need to find what will work best for the residents of Haywood County.”
King said the county’s recycling facility isn’t set up to handle glass, and that developing an efficient and cost-effective program will take time and require additional funds.
A solution can’t come too soon for Joe Vescovi, who moved to Haywood County from New York about the same time King took over as solid waste director. Vescovi said he was surprised and disappointed to discover that his new home county was trashing an opportunity to help the environment.
“I think things that can be recycled should be,” he said.
Unlike in Haywood County, residents in most WNC counties sort various recyclables such as glass, newspaper and plastic themselves. That’s worked well in places such as Macon County, which is recycling about 20 percent of its total waste stream.
“That means every five years we gain a year of landfill life,” said Chris Stahl, head of Macon’s solid waste program. “The cell (landfill area) we are in is about a 15-year cell. We’ll gain three years over those 15 years by diverting that waste.”
Macon County ranks fourth among the state’s counties for the pounds per person the county recovers in recyclables, collecting about 346 pounds for each resident living there.
Swain is sixth with 273 pounds per person, Jackson 21st with 149 pounds per person, and Haywood 26th with 139 pounds per person, according to the latest state rating figures available, released in May 2006.
Like some other statistics for the western counties, the region’s second homeowners and part-time residents are probably skewing the numbers. Many of those residents recycle their waste while living here part-time but aren’t included in county population figures. Therefore, the pounds per resident averages are inflated.
In Haywood County, the system – and the space allotted for that system – doesn’t easily allow for individuals to sort recyclables themselves.
Currently, a Haywood County resident brings their recyclables – excluding glass, which goes directly in the garbage — in a single bag to a convenience center.
The bag is ferried to the county’s recycling center, and is dumped on the concrete floor where the bag is broken apart. The contents are then loaded on a conveyor belt that feeds a bailing machine.
Under this system, any glass placed in the bag would break and mix in with other recyclables. That would lower the price received for what is now a commodity — the county sells its recyclables to help sustain the program, King said.
Why not simply set up areas at the convenience centers for separation to take place there, as other counties do? The 10 convenience centers in Haywood County are smaller than their counterparts elsewhere and there isn’t room for sorting bins, King said.
King, who once ran Macon County’s recycling operations, plans to evaluate the county’s convenience centers and see if bins could be squeezed in at some of the more centrally located ones.
Haywood County residents Fred Henline and wife Corena said they’d be among those participating in a glass recycling program if the county develops one.
“We already recycle everything else,” Henline said. “If we could, we would.”
King is also exploring an out-of-the-box option: Hiring a company to set up a processing facility that would allow Haywood County to mix its glass with concrete and make items such as stepping stones.
In addition to glass, King also plans to start recycling programs for rechargeable batteries and computers. He said any success would be dependent on Haywood County residents’ buying-in to recycling.