Recycling confussion in Smithfield

Published 8:55 pm Thursday, July 30, 2015


By Abby Proch

Staff writer

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For all the ease and low cost of single-stream recycling, the comingled recycling effort is now beginning to cost the town money.

 Last month, Butler Paper, which accepts the town’s recycled items, began charging the town $25 per ton of recycling material because it says the town’s recycling has been laden with non-recyclable items.

 Single-stream recycling allows residents to combine its glass, paper and plastic recycling in one container.

 However, some non-recyclable items are making it difficult — and costly — for Butler Paper to process.

 “Anything that can get wrapped around something shuts down the whole system,” said Butler Paper President Jay Butler.

 “It mucks the whole system up,” sometimes two or three times a day, he said.

 Namely, it’s the plastic bags causing the biggest headaches.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Plastic bags get tangled in the equipment, as do garden hoses and wires, and often contain garbage, even medical waste like needles.

 Then, Butler’s employees must rifle through them by hand.

 That’s Butler is asking residents to skip the plastic bags and place the recyclables directly in the recycling container.

 And the time it takes remedy the problem is costing his business money in an already shaky business. Butler says the household recycling plants are having trouble making a profit in a time where recycled items aren’t valued as high as they once were.

 Town officials didn’t know about its trash-tainted recycling until recently.

 According to Town Manager Stephenson, Butler gave two warnings to the town’s trash and recycling hauler Moody’s A.V.E.S. — one in January and one in May.

 According to Stephenson, Butler told Moody’s that the town’s single-stream recycling simply contained too much trash.

 Moody’s didn’t relay the message until June.

 After an emergency meeting with Butler President Jay Butler, Stephenson has entered a “gentlemen’s agreement” to keep the recycling contract going but to begin paying Butler Paper $25 per ton, or about $13,000 annually.

 Under the town’s recycling program, Butler has traditionally accepted the recycling free of charge. However, the town pays Moody’s $213,700 annually to haul it to Butler’s Franklin location.

 Town residents do not pay an outright recycling fee, but it is included intheir property taxes.

 Butler has already prohibited the city of Franklin from using its services after the city failed to properly educate its residents about what can be recycled, said Stephenson.

 “We’re willing to do more education,” Stephenson said.

 Smithfield Town Councilman Mike Smith suggested the town employ some method to determine who is tainting recycling bins and to stop them from doing it.

 Smith said some localities have spot checkers that check recycling bins for non-recyclable items. Those residents receive a warning, and on a second violation, the recycling can is taken or the resident is fined.

 As it stands, there is no ordinance in town code to support similar penalties.

 “That concerns me of this blatant violation of this. Our public is costing the public money,” said Smith, noting the irony.

 To be sure, Stephenson confirmed with Moody’s that recycling trucks haven’t been mixing the towns recycling with waste from another locality before dumping it at Butler.

 Mayor Carter Williams asked why the town had to offer recycling services in the first place.

 Stephenson said state law requires most localities to recycle at least 25 percent of their trash, but that can include businesses. Stephenson said the town could meet the requirement on business recycling alone.

 Councilwoman Connie Chapman said her neighbors have used their recycling bin as just another garbage can while others have loaded the container with yard debris.

 Still, Chapman said it wasn’t fair to conscientious residents to cancel recycling services altogether.

 “I think people are going to be more upset if we go backwards and take away recycling,” said Chapman.

 Stephenson said the town can revisit the recycling program in its newsletter and may put stickers on recycling bins with what can and can’t be recycled.

 BOX: What can go in the can?


Accepted items


• paper — newspaper, magazines, junk mail, phonebooks, etc.


• cardboard — unwaxed, flattened


• plastics marked with #1 and #2


• aluminum, steel or tin food and beverage containers


• glass bottles and jars




Unaccepted items:


• unmarked plastic like toys and chairs


• plastic bags


• plastics marked #3 and up


• Styrofoam or packing foam


• electronics and wires


• garden hoses


• motor oil containers


• light bulbs


• aerosol cans


• hazardous materials


• yard debris