It’s almost over.
That dull and dirty job of separating your household garbage from your recyclables - and putting them out in containers for pick-up on two different days during the week. Not to mention paying an insanely high fee just for the privilege of having all your handiwork - carefully washed plastic yogurt containers, thoroughly rinsed glass mayonnaise bottles and soggy, soiled balls of paper towel hauled away to a recycling center half way across the state.
A brand new, highly efficient, eco-friendly method of garbage pick up - including recyclables - is coming to Berkeley County soon. Berkeley County has partnered with RePower South, a recycling recovery and renewable energy company, to build a new mixed waste material recycling facility.
“Customers will no longer have to sort out their plastics, paper and bottles and put them in a separate container,” observes Berkeley County Deputy Supervisor Tim Callanan, a Daniel Island resident. “They’ll just simply throw all their trash into one container. No more work and no more fees for recycling!”
Under the new fee model, the City of Charleston will contract through Berkeley County for Daniel Island pick up. All the waste and recyclables will be collected at the same time in the same cart and delivered to the Berkeley County Recycling and Recovery Facility.
The new facility will boast a wide range of sophisticated technology, systems and components that efficiently sort waste, layer by layer into various components: plastic containers from paper cup and banana peels from metal cans.
Bob Shepard, president of RePower South, explains that some materials, like fibers and higher number plastics, will be reduced in size and converted to an engineered feedstock that industrial customers will burn in place of coal. Shepard maintains that the converted material produces less waste to the landfill, burns more cleanly than coal and reduces the amount of pollutants in the air. Materials that can’t be recovered, like organic waste and glass, will be transported to the landfill. The facility will significantly mitigate the amount of trash that has to go into the landfill by processing paper, fibers and plastics, then locating markets committed to paying full value for these processed materials for fuel and other needs.
Once upon a time, recycling in the county was a simple, opt-in service for a cost of about $36 per year, part of a contract that Berkeley County had successfully negotiated with waste carriers like Republic Services.
“The fee was based on a model that guaranteed all recyclables would be separated out and processed at Charleston County’s facility in downtown Charleston, operated by Sonoco,” said Callanan. But that all changed when the facility closed two years ago.
Suddenly, Berkeley County waste carriers had to travel all the way to a facility in Columbia, SC, then were subsequently rerouted to Horry County. And industries previously committed to buying and recycling aluminum and paper, started to pull back, paying for only half the full value.
“The fee for curbside pick-up of recyclables suddenly sky-rocketed from $36 per household per year to $150 per year,” recalls Callanan. “The whole recycling market just collapsed.”
The county was worried that frustrated residents would pull out and curbside service would have to be discontinued per contract stipulation. Happily, that didn’t happen, notes Callanan.
“We’ve had a stable number of folks who are willing to pay the higher rate. They know the issue is temporary and Berkeley County (like Charleston and Dorchester counties) is trying to resolve the problem as fast as possible. We just needed a new plan…and a company with a totally new model for making the system work.”
Shepard points out that Berkeley County is committed to investment in the facility because recycling is the right thing to do.” The county currently landfills over 120,000 tons annually of residential and commercial municipal solid waste. When the facility opens, less than 50,000 annual tons will be landfilled and the rest will either be recycled or recovered as an engineered fuel.
Callanan promises: “We will keep tabs on the amount of materials we recoup and keep Berkeley County residents apprised of our status. We plan to stay accountable to our commitment.”
The Berkeley County Recycling and Recovery Facility will be located on a sizable block of land, 15 acres total, half way between Goose Creek and Moncks Corner. The facility itself, also impressive in size, will be located inside the gate of the landfill.
Construction on the new center is set to begin later this summer. Berkeley County, together with RePower, expects that the facility will be ready to be operational within a year.
To supersize the speed and efficiency of the plant, the facility has “hired” a new robot nicknamed “Max.” Short-hand for Max-AI™ technology, “Max” is an artificial intelligence robot powered by deep learning technology composed of multi-layered neural networks and a vision system that identifies recyclables and other items for recovery. “Max” can actually see the difference between a plastic and paper cups and sort accordingly, just as a human can, but at a rate of 70 items per minute. To watch a video of Max at work, visit http://www.bulkhandlingsystems.com/bhs-nrt-introduce-max-ai/ .
“The incorporation of AI technology is a real game-changer,” said Shepard.
“In all aspects of the facility, it’s an amazing process to see what goes on inside.”
CURRENT RECYCLING OPTIONS
Cardboard, mixed paper, bottles and cans:
If you are a Daniel Island or Cainhoy Peninsula resident and are not currently subscribed to a curbside recycling program, the nearest recycling center that accepts cardboard, mixed paper, aluminum and steel is located at: 1430 Charity Church Road, Huger.
Neither Berkeley County’s recycling program or the City of Charleston garbage collection service currently pick up discarded electronics (e-Waste). However, electronics retail stores like Staples and Best Buy offer programs and kiosks that accept many e-waste items.
845 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. (843) 881-1127. Go to http://www.staples/sbd/cre/marketing/sustainability-center/recycling-ser... for more information and a full list of e-waste items that the program accepts.
7612 Rivers Avenue, North Charleston, SC 29406. (843) 553-9299. Go to: http://www/bestbuy.com/site/clp/recycle-faqs/pcmcat174700050009 for more information and a full list of e-waste items that the program accepts.
Batteries Plus does accept lithium batteries while some e-waste recycling programs will not. Batteries Plus 621 Johnnie Dodds, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464 (843) 284-3802 Go to: https://www.batteriesplus.com/t/recycling for more information.