Up until three months ago, a Lexington-based company had been paying Moore County to haul away tons of recyclable materials.

Now, the company wants to charge the county $15 a ton — the same amount it had been paying for the materials — beginning July 1, said Chad Beane, solid waste and recycling division manager for the county.

“The recycling market has plummeted,” Beane said Tuesday morning. “Like any market, it will probably bounce back.”

But for next year, this has blown a $70,000 hole in the budget in terms of the estimated lost revenue next year, Beane said.

County Manager Wayne Vest said he will likely propose charging a $25-per-ton fee in the budget for the new fiscal year. He will present his proposed budget to the county commissioners in May. The board will have the final say on any new tipping fee.

Vest said the current contractor, North Davidson Garbage and Recycling, agreed to give the county a “grace period” until July 1 to start charging for taking the materials.

The new fee will also impact the budgets of several municipalities that have recycling programs and bring those materials to the landfill, where it is collected by North Davidson. The county pays a fee of $5.75 per ton to a company that operates the transfer station at the landfill for the recyclables, Beane said.

“There are not as many companies doing this now,” Beane said of ones still paying for recycling materials.

More than 4,500 tons of recyclable materials were hauled away in the previous fiscal year, Beane said. The materials come from the county’s seven collection sites, as well as several municipalities, including Pinehurst, Aberdeen, Pinebluff and Whispering Pines.

Beane said it is important for the county to continue its recycling program because of the amount of material it keeps out of the landfill. He said the county has gone from 45th in the state to 15th in recycling in the last five years.

“We’re very proud and excited about that,” he said. “Our residents have really embrace it. We want to continuing do that.”

Vest agreed, adding, “It is the right thing to do to keep it out of the landfill.”

Beane said China, which had been one of the major customers in the market for the recyclable materials, is not buying as much now. He added that lower fuel prices are also impacting the market.

Plastics are petroleum-based, so “it is cheaper to make it,” he said.

He said some companies are also limited to the types of recyclables they will accept.

Beane said the county plans to continue contracting with North Davidson.

“We want a company that does it right,” he said.

The county put out the word in February with the municipalities that it was contemplating a new tipping fee in the next fiscal year so that could plan for it in their budgets.

Should the county commissioners approve the new $25 fee, it would amount to an additional $55,000 a year for the village of Pinehurst, according to Financial Services Director John Frye. The village, which provides curbside recycling, is estimating that it will collect 2,200 tons of recyclables next year. he said.

Aberdeen Town Manager Bill Zell said he is finalizing several different budget options for the town board to consider. Like Pinehurst, Aberdeen also provides curbside recycling collection. Both provide same-day collection of household trash and recycling materials.

“I understand their situation,” Zell said of the county needing to charge a fee to cover its costs. “It is just getting more and more expensive. At some point, it could make it (recycling) cost prohibitive.”

He said recycling is a three-legged stool — the homeowner has to separate out those materials, someone has to pick it up, or provide a place for them to bring it, and then someone has to be willing to take it.

“That is what wanes all the time,” he said of companies that will pay to haul the materials away. “You want to keep it out of the landfill.”

Zell said the town will have to study the impact of the new fee and look into whether to increase its garbage collection fee. He added that the proposed $25 tipping fee for recyclables is still less than the $45.18 per ton fee for normal household trash.

Beane said he understands the concerns by towns about the financial impact a new fee on their budgets next year. He said he hopes they will continue to operate recycling programs.

“The No. 1 reason is it is the right thing to do,” he said. “It keeps trash out of the landfill. It is still cheaper than the regular tipping fee.”

Beane said up until three years ago, many of the towns were contracting with different companies to take their recycling. He said having it brought to the landfill on N.C. 5 between Aberdeen and Pinehurst was a way to “streamline it and make it easier for everyone.”

He is optimistic that things will eventually improve, which could result in reducing or eliminating the fee at some point.

“The market will bounce back,” he said. “We’ve just got to get over a few bumps in the road. It is important that we continue to recycle.”

(9) comments

MCM101st

I may be a little off on this, but doesn't the company sell the recycled items? Why do we have to pay someone to take the trash and they sell it and make money off of?? I already pay my town a trash fee when I pay my water bill. Are you telling me they may raise my trash fee or taxes to pay more?

David Hensley

I think it is time we stop fooling ourselves with "feel good" things such as recycling.

Like ethanol, solar energy and other environmental religion initiatives, recycling does not make economic sense. If if did, government would not have to mandate them.

Conrad Meyer

David,
I agree with you on ethanol, solar energy, wind, and other "greenwashing" technologies. Government subsidies of some sort are required to make the business cases viable from an economic standpoint. That, coupled with the fact that even though we have had a US Department of Energy since Jimmy Carter started it, we still have no comprehensive Energy Policy. This demonstrates to me that we do not need the Department of Energy.

But back to recycling. It actually does make economic sense. Tipping fees at landfills typically run about $50 per ton to dump your trash. Recyclable materials like paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass, etc. do have some small intrinsic value in good times. (I remember when you could get $160/ton for cardboard). This means you can avoid the $50 per ton tipping fee and actually pocket some money. The economic equation falls apart when the cost to recycle approaches the tipping fee at your local landfill.

Speaking of landfills, Moore County does not have a landfill. They only have a transfer station where trash is collected and then sent to landfills in other counties. So we are at the mercy of what other landfills charge. So who wants a landfill in their back yard in Moore County?

Scott Bowers

Lenny Bo, why do you say Moore County doesn’t have a landfill? I’ve been there numerous times, dumped stuff, and watched as they covered trash with dirt. I think it’s more of a question of how much and what kind of stuff do we want in our landfill and how quickly do we want it to fill up.

Conrad Meyer

ScottB - thanks for pointing that out. I should have been more specific. Moore County no longer has a sanitary landfill, but still collects other forms of trash.

And your point is right on. Landfills are expensive to build and nobody wants one in their back yard. So we should be concerned about how fast we fill up the landfills we have and recycling has a huge impact.

Staff
David Sinclair

Just for clarification, the county's cost also includes the $5.75 per ton transfer fee referenced in the story.

Scott Bowers

I agree with Lenny Bo, but would like to know the reasoning behind recommending a $25/ton fee when the proposed charge is $15/ton. I’m sure there’s a good reason, I was just unable to glean it from the article.

Scott Bowers

Never mind... We're not only being charged $15/ton, but we're also losing the $15/ton we were making on it, so $25/ton doesn't even make up the difference. Sorry.

"Think before you ask these questions Mitch!"

Conrad Meyer

How do we know we are spending our money wisely with North Davidson?

Seems to me that if they want to charge us for materials disposal that they previously paid for, the county has the obligation to the citizens to check out costs of the other "reputable" recyclers. North Davidson is not the only one. Or maybe there is a long term contract in place (not mentioned).

If we are getting the best deal, then do what you have to do. Recycling is a far better alternative to disposing in a landfill.

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