Oct 15 2009

The need to keep Charleston green

Romney Street Recycling Center

Romney Street Recycling Center

By Paul Robinson

“When you recycle one aluminum can, you save 95% of the energy that was used to originally make it. That 95% is enough energy to run a household television for three hours,” says Jenny Bloom, Charleston’s Recycling Educator.

The Garden Club of Isle of Palms, founded in 1948, recently gathered at The IOP Exchange Building for an evening with guest speaker Jenny Bloom. Bloom’s enthusiasm resonated throughout the room as she explained Charleston County’s current recycling programs, the importance of teaching young people about the impact of recycling and what everyone can do to help.

“When a plastic bottle goes in to the normal trash can and not the recycling blue bin, that plastic bottle will sit for 400 to 1000 years and never fully break down,” explained Bloom. “Plastic bottles are not bio-degradable, they are photo-degradable, meaning they only break down into smaller pieces. You are looking, at best, at seven life generations until that one plastic bottle deteriorates, but only into smaller pieces.”

According to Bloom, only one out of every ten plastic/glass bottles in Charleston County find their way to the downtown Recycling Center located at 13 Romney Street. “We have buyers for all of the plastic and glass labeled 1 and 2. Anheuser Busch buys all of the beer bottles,” said Bloom. “If the item in question has a category of 3 – 7, we still accept them and want them,” she said. “If you are in doubt and are wondering if the item in question can be recycled, put it in the bin. Separate glass bottles with plastic bottles and paper with paper. Let us worry about sorting the rest,” Bloom urged.

On the docket for the Charleston County Environmental Managing Department is an initiative to increase the current 10% recycling rate to an aggressive 40% recycling rate. The County Council asked for the initiative roughly one and a half years ago and with three and a half years to four years left go to, there is yet to be a significant increase in recycling. Part of the reason lies with the long wait between recycling bin pick-ups. With the residential blue bin collection trucks coming through once every two weeks, commercial businesses and residents are often accumulating more recyclable materials than they can handle and throwing the run-over into the regular trash. However, Jennie Davis, Public Information Officer for Charleston County, stated that, “The Charleston County Environmental Management Department is currently working on the best way to meet County Council’s new recycling goal of 40%.”

The push for more widespread and efficient means of recycling in Charleston County is becoming more and more necessary as the County’s population expands and more events are being held in the area. The 7th Annual Ballpark Festival of Beers held at Joe Riley Stadium on October 3, did not offer recycling to the 20+ vendors serving out of bottles only. With roughly 2,000 tickets sold for the event, an estimated 6,250 bottles of beer never made it to the recycling center. However, smaller initiatives, such as Mayor Joe Riley’s unveiling of the first recycling bin at a Charleston City park on Monday, October 5, are beginning to take place. Unfortunately, change needs to happen a little faster than that.
On December 31, 2009, the garbage incinerator on Spruill Ave in North Charleston will be shut down. According to The Lowcountry Chapter of the Sierra Club, the incinerator burns 70% of household trash accumulated in Charleston County. Incinerators across the Nation are being dismantled due to the out of date technology and the harmful/deadly emissions, but that leaves just the Bees Ferry Landfill to pick up the slack. Currently, the Bees Ferry Landfill only brings in 30% of Charleston County’s trash. After the incinerator closes, the landfill will be taking on 100% of Charleston County’s trash and the life expectancy of the landfill will be cut in half from 25 years to 12 years. “If we are able to increase the 10% recycling rate to 40%, this will become much less of an issue,” said Bloom.

According to Folly Beach’s Mayor Carl Beckmann, “County Council is embarking on a quest to have more recycling options for local businesses and the guests of Folly Beach. We are pushing to have a stationary recycling station on Folly and for the summer of 2010, we could implement this with the guests of Folly Beach and increase the amount of recycling options to them. When guests are leaving Folly Beach, they could easily drop off their cans and bottles in the public bin.”

Some area businesses and municipalities are taking matters into their own hands and hiring privately owned companies to handle their recycling. Aaron Siegel, owner of Home Team BBQ, has a business size recycling container at each of his locations on Sullivan’s Island and West Ashley. With the help of a private hauling service, Home Team BBQ has a weekly pick-up to meet their recycling needs. “We try as much as we can to recycle and have less of an environmental impact on the local area. Making the effort to have a private recycling service and having your employees commit to is our way of doing our part,” said Siegel. Home Team BBQ also utilizes a private sustainable composting business that transfers their food waste to a pig farm in the Charleston area.

Kiawah Island has also taken the initiative to hire an outside company for their recycling needs. According to Rusty Lameo, Chief of Code Enforcement for Kiawah, “We have seen an increase in recycling each year at Kiawah. In 2009 we recycled 23.5 tons for the month of July, which is up from 21.72 tons in 2008. Seeing those numbers rise means progress. With Kiawah implementing a 35 gallon roll out recycling trash can to the residents with weekly pickups, we can educate and provide convenience to our residents and do our part.”

For more information on how to recycle and help Charleston County reach their goal of 40%, visit www.CharlestonCounty.org. For more info on receiving recycling bins for your home or business, please call 720-7111. Contact Pat Johnson at or Susan Wallace at 442-6450 for information on The Isle of Palms Garden Club.

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