Wrap, rejoice, recycle – centers gear up for holidays

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The Pawleys Island recycling center is the busiest one in the county.

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Tanya Ackerman/Coastal Observer

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Environment: Wrap, rejoice, recycle – centers gear up for holidays

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By Margaret Lamb
For the Observer

If only the Grinch would come on Dec. 25 and haul away the holiday boxes, the bows, the ribbons and the bags and leave the gifts behind.

Alas, no such luck. The Waccamaw Neck isn’t Whoville, and many households are left with a heaping pile of crinkled wrapping paper, boxes, bags and limp bows as big as a Christmas wish list.

Don’t despair, and don’t stuff them into your trash can unless, of course, you have a recycling service.

What you can’t pack away and repurpose next year, you can take to one of 14 recycling centers in Georgetown County, along with all your Christmas greenery – undecorated, of course – said Michelle LaRocco, the county’s Environmental Services manager.

LaRocco said the holidays are a busy time for the county’s centers. All the centers, including the Pawleys Island Recycling Center on Grate Avenue, which is the county’s busiest in terms of waste and items dropped off, are open on Christmas Eve.

“We certainly get busier around the holidays,” LaRocco said.

“While other non-essential county offices are closed on Dec. 24, we’re open until 1 p.m., and we’ll resume regular hours on Dec. 26. It’s a sign of the demand and the need.”

Year round, cardboard is the most recycled material, followed by aluminum and plastic, LaRocco said. She urges people to remove packing, such as bubble wrap and Styrofoam, from boxes before taking to a recycling center.

“It’s hard to sort out and could contaminate the cardboard,” she said. “We’re happy to take the boxes, the tissue paper, and the wrapping paper to be recycled,” she said. “Bows and ribbons should be treated as trash and pitched into the trash bin.”

LaRocco also reminds people bringing their holiday greenery to remove all ribbons, lights, wire and tinsel.

Even though the greenery is dead, there’s life after the holidays, in the form of mulch.

“We typically compact them, even the Poinsettias, and use them for mulch around county office buildings, county parks and land,” LaRocco said. “Even though Poinsettias can be harmful to animals, they can be turned into mulch. Just be sure to take them out of the buckets, or the pots, and empty the dirt out.”

And if you’re resolved to “tidy up” and declutter in the new year, recycling is ready when you are.

The center takes electronics, TVs, computers, printers, aluminum, scrap metal and wire, beach chairs, batteries, bad gasoline, cooking oil, motor oil, anti-freeze and up to four tires per person per week.

Old cloth and clothing too worn to give to charitable organizations can be used for stuffing and for industrial rugs. Aluminum and plastic are baled and shipped to a recycling broker.

LaRocco is quick to point out that the recycling centers are not dumps. “We’re not running a dump,” she said. “We run a solid waste management facility.”

And be forewarned: Once you bring an item through those gates, there are no second chances to reclaim discarded items. “Once something goes into a bin, it’s county property,” LaRocco said. “Sometimes people will try to trade in the yard, but we don’t allow that.”

The recycling center has 17 bins, which are used as needed, and four compactors, two for solid waste, one for yard waste and one for cardboard.

LaRocco reminds people to bring their recycling loose, or if they bring it in a bag to the center they can recycle the plastic bag separately.

“Don’t bring recyclables in black plastic bags.”By sight we can’t tell if they may have some non-recyclable material in it,” LaRocco said. “Someone could accidentally throw trash into the recycling, so it is to reduce contamination and for operator safety.” 

For the plastic bag recycling, the center has specific cans labeled “plastic bags.”

Pawleys Island, Murrells Inlet and the Johnson Road center in Andrews are participating with Publix in a plastic bag collection program.

The Pawleys Island center is one of three centers open daily because of demand. The Murrells Inlet center and the Johnson Road center are also open seven days a week.

LaRocco said Waccamaw Neck residents are doing a good job recycling, but she urges residents to evaluate their waste and look for more items to recycle.

Thirty-six percent of the items brought to the center in the fiscal year that ended June 30 were recyclable, a figure that is close to the statewide goal set by the Department of Health and Environmental Control of 40 percent.

“From July 2017 through June 2018, 5,760 tons of waste and items were brought to the recycling center,” she said. “Of that, 2,100 tons were recycled, and 3,600 tons were sent to the landfill on Browns Ferry Road, so we’re close to the 40 percent goal. As a county, we still have work to do, but the numbers for Pawleys Island are encouraging.”

LaRocco said her team speaks to groups, at events and in schools to spread the message about recycling.

“We’re always looking for more ways to encourage people,” she said. “The New Year is the ideal time for all of us to redouble our efforts.”

For more information on recycling, go to georgetowncountysc.org.

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