The recession bought Haywood County a little extra life in the landfill, thanks to less construction waste and commercial trash.
A pit that everyone thought would be full by now still has more than a year left. But some of the credit is also due to the county’s new solid waste director, Stephen King, who’s proved a zealot for recycling in his three years on the job.
Last year, recycling was a break-even operation. The money made selling recyclables covered the cost of handling, sorting and disposing of them.
Trash, on the other hand, is a $4 million per year cost.
“I can’t generate revenue off the stuff we put in the ground,” King said. “I have to come up with a way to manage it, not just for that day, but for eternity.”
It drives King crazy to see things that could be recycled buried in the earth at such a high cost.
“You tell me where the priority should be,” King said.
“Could you imagine if everybody devoted more effort to recycling? We wouldn’t have to be coming up with solutions to deal with this.”
King’s preaching — as well as the glaring line item in the county’s budget every year — prompted Commissioner Kevin Ensley to finally start recycling. He’s so into it now that he plays the role of recycling police with other family members — even recycling things like cardboard paper towel tubes and the boxes that toothpaste come in. He’s cut his household trash from five to six bags a week to only two.
“I don’t think I am going to save the planet by recycling, but I know I am saving my tax money,” Ensley said.
In a personal experiment, King split open people’s trash bags to see how much was getting thrown away that could be getting recycled. At least 50 percent of what’s being thrown away could be recycled instead.
“Why are we digging more holes to put recyclables in?” King said