By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
Pulaski County got an early Christmas present on Monday in the form of a traditional holiday color — green.
Local dignitaries showed up at the Pulaski County Recycling Center to help officials unveil the county’s new curbside recycling program, which is set to begin next month.
“We kicked it off (by) making an announcement to let folks know where we’re going,” said Gerald Hines, the county’s solid waste coordinator. “It was a good day as far as attendance. There were a lot of supporters there. It means a great deal to us here at the recycling center.”
Over 100 individuals came to hear about the new program — the first of its kind for a county in Kentucky — made possible in partnership with area waste removal company Waste Connections. It’s the kind of thing folks in larger cities are used to seeing — an initiative to encourage recycling as a way of life, not just a chore.
“I think the biggest difference we’re hoping (the program) will make is that people will see convenience of recycling,” said Hines. “Most people would like to, but some people feel like it’s an additional duty or that it’s time consuming. We’re just trying to take all the inconvenience away.”
The recycling center will deliver special carts to homes in early January, along with packets containing information on how the recycling collection will work, what the schedule will be, what materials may be recycled, and more. Different areas will have recycling pick-ups on different days, and refrigerator magnets with reminders about those dates will be provided.
Hines said he expects to distribute 12,333 carts which people can put out in front of their home for recycling, the same way they would a trash can, for collection (expected to be on a monthly basis, at least at first). No sorting is necessary; only loose or shredded paper needs to be in a bag by itself. The carts are free if you’re a customer of Waste Connections, said Hines.
Additionally, about 500 commercial customers are expected to receive carts to participate.
The collection itself will begin the first week of February.
“Not everyone will recycle, but we’re hoping this will lead to more recycling,” said Hines. “You don’t have to get out or make a special effort (to do it). Making the number of people who recycle higher is our main focus.”
Hines hopes that several thousand more people will end up regularly doing so as a result of this.
Curbside recycling was written into Pulaski County’s renewed contract with Waste Connections for solid waste collection. Waste Connections customers will not be charged for curbside recycling. In fact, the monthly residential rate will drop from $12.52 to $12.35, effective Jan. 1, 2013.
“The great thing been able to offer Waste Connections services and recycling for less money than just paying for Waste Connections,” said Hines. “Dollar-wise, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Hines noted that the recycling center has grown in production ever year after opening in September of 2007. They started out recycling 200,000 pounds of unused material annually; today, they’re at more than 4.5 million pounds per year.
“Meade, Bell, Boone, Henderson and Adair County officials, and officials from other counties and cities, have toured our facility to get ideas for starting or enhancing their own recycling centers,” said Hines.
To fund the steady expansion of the recycling center, Hines has obtained $817,160 in state grants to pay for equipment. The Pulaski County Solid Waste Board, with support from the Fiscal Court, covers the facility and personnel costs. The Pulaski County Recycling Center is a regional operation, allowing Pulaski and surrounding counties to recycle on a scale that would not be possible on their own.
Hines estimates 2,500 residential customers currently drop off items at the recycling center, and he will continue to accept drop-offs. Active participants in the center’s recycling service include 25 schools, 300 businesses, Congressman Rogers’ District Office, Pulaski County Courthouse, Pulaski County Judicial Center, City of Somerset, City of Burnside, City of Eubank, City of Ferguson, City of Science Hill, and Clinton County.
Among the speakers at Monday’s program kick-off were Congressman Hal Rogers, Pulaski County Judge-Executive Barty Bullock, Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler, Waste Connections divisional vice-president Dave Wiggins, and Pulaski County 109 Board chairman Joe Dungan (the 109 board is an government-provided entity dealing with solid waste).
Rogers’ efforts founded the local environmental organization PRIDE (Personal Responsibility in a Desirable Environment), which helped make the curbside recycling program possible.
“Today, Pulaski County sets the standard that other Kentucky communities will strive to match in their solid waste management programs,” said Rogers. “I commend Gerald Hines for his leadership, and I thank Waste Connections for their support in making this happen.”
“PRIDE has changed the mindset of a generation,” he added. “Today, our children are helping to educate their parents and grandparents about the value of being environmentally friendly. It’s important our children practice what they learn in school and recycling at home is important for their future. Recycling saves natural resources, supplies our manufacturers with affordable materials and reduces the energy used in production.”
Additionally, Hines was presented with a "Hal Rogers Difference Maker" Award in recognition of his exemplary leadership and dedication to recycling and environmental education in southern Kentucky, including his steadfast partnership with the PRIDE organization.
"Curbside recycling is part of the bigger picture that PRIDE initialized 15 years ago, encouraging people across southern and eastern Kentucky to do their part to clean up the environment," said Rogers. "Our youth are leading the way in our schools with 55 student-designed recycling projects. Their eagerness to participate in PRIDE activities have helped spark interest in volunteers of all ages."
Wiggins praised Pulaski County for investing in a “top notch” recycling center.
“We are very pleased to be part of this ground-breaking service in Pulaski County, and we hope it will be a model that spurs recycling in other Kentucky communities,” said Wiggins. “Our company began in western states where customers expect sustainability, so recycling has long been a top priority in our business plan.”
Bullock said that the new program would be “of great benefit” to local citizens.
“From an economic standpoint, curbside recycling has already created four new jobs at Waste Connections,” said Bullock. “My hope is that the program generates enough volume for that number of jobs to increase, both at Waste Connections and at the Solid Waste and Recycling Center. I want to thank everyone, in advance, for participating and helping to reduce waste in our county.”
To become a Waste Connections customer or to learn more about recycling options in Pulaski County, please call Hines at 677-0320.
Hines said there hasn’t been an environmental study done yet to show what can of impact keeping this extra trash out of landfills would have on Pulaski County, but he’s absolutely certain the program would have a positive effect.
“I’ve worked in this field for 20 years,” he said. “I’ve seen litter and trash on the road side and the hollers, and I’ve seen that change over time. This is just another step to educate people to do the right thing with their waste.”