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A Single Stream Dream

Recycling has always been a priority for residents on Sullivan’s Island. But you have to admit… it’s a little inconvenient. Those going green are asked to separate recyclables based on material composition, which are then placed into two 22-gallon blue bins. Every other week, the bins are carried to the curb (which can be quite the workout, especially for the bins full of wine bottles and beer cans) and then taken to the County recycling facility. Especially during the summer months, it’s not a popular household chore.

In an effort to make recycling easier, more convenient, and more appealing, the County initiated an incremental expansion to switch to single-stream recycling. With single-stream recycling, the 22-gallon separate bins are replaced with a single, large 95-gallon bin that can contain all recyclable items without separating them based on material. Resembling a green trash container, the bin is easily wheeled to and from the curb for pickup.

Though the change seems simple, it makes recycling much more attractive, and a lot less work. Everything from milk jugs to the morning newspaper can go in the same container. The County launched a single-stream pilot study in January 2011 for homes in West Ashley, James Island, and parts of Mount Pleasant to determine if making the switch would help the County recycle more materials. Results showed that single-stream recyclers yielded a 70 percent recycling rate from 4,600 homes across the lowcountry, up from the previously calculated 39 percent from dual-stream programs. The average pounds of recyclable material per home jumped from 10 to 21.

Seeing the success of the single-stream, the County was ready to implement the changes in phases across the area. The Isle of Palms was incorporated into the single-stream program during Phase 4 of the project and homeowners and businesses received their large blue bins in the fall of last year. But the Town of Sullivan’s Island is still waiting on their bins, much to the dismay of homeowners on the island that find the 22-gallon bins a hassle.

The Town has stepped up and made several attempts to contact the County, but action seems to be moving slowly. “This is something that I’m really interested in, and I want the County to let us make the switch,” explains Sullivan’s Island Councilman Pat O’Neil. “It makes recycling easier, and more convenient.”

Officials at the County, though, say that the process takes time. “We know that Sullivan’s Island has been waiting patiently,” says Carolyn Carusos, recycling program manager for Charleston County. “But right now, it’s unknown when the island will receive the bins.”

Beginning March 8, an additional 9,000 homes in the I’On neighborhood of Mount Pleasant were selected to receive the 95-gallon bins, along with single-family homes on the peninsula downtown in Phase 5 of the switch. But for Sullivan’s, the bins remain at bay. “Our community recycles a lot, even with the 22-gallon bins. And in my opinion, the way to encourage good behavior is through support and reward,” says O’Neil.

Carusos says the decision process as to which areas receive the single-stream bins is largely at the hands of the County collections division, and depends on how much recyclable materials the downtown facility can handle. “We’re having to do this switch in increments because we really don’t have the capacity to take in all the recyclables at once,” she says. “In the future, I’m sure we will be moving to a bigger facility.”

Plans for a Phase 6 are underway and hope to be implemented by June, but the list of affected areas has not been prepared. So for now, it’s a matter of wishing and waiting.

For more information on the County’s recycling program, visit www.charlestoncounty.org/departments/solidwaste/index.htm. The Department can be reached via phone, at 720-7111.

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