Holmes County focuses on recycling without the baggage

Holmes County focuses on recycling without the baggage
Dave Mast

When people recycle and throw their bags into the recycling bin along with their recyclable material, it causes major issues at the recycling plants and costs the county an excessive amount of money in the process.


Recycling is something the Holmes County Board of Commissioners value greatly, enough to sink some dollars into creating 11 recycling drop spots around Holmes County to make it convenient for the public to turn their recycling into something useful and help the ecosystem at the same time.

While they appreciate the effort of everyone who takes time to do the right thing the right way when it comes to recycling, one major issue has arisen that has made the project much more expensive than it should be.

According to Tim Morris, Holmes County solid waste director, while many people follow proper procedures in recycling, there are people who continue to drop off unrecyclable material at the sites, meaning more work and more expense for the county.

However, the main culprit that has cost the county thousands of dollars each month is a far more sinister piece of material that is easily overlooked.

The plastic bag has become the bane of recycling centers around the nation, and that includes locally, where the county is being charged exorbitant money due to plastic bags continuing to show up in the recycling bins.

“Ever since COVID, with the shortage of help, recycling centers started to go to automation, and they don’t want to get away from it,” Morris said. “So they just dump everything co-mingled, and they have conveyor belts that use vibration, air and magnets to sort the recycling. They don’t want material in a bag because they would have to have someone there to stand there and cut them open.”

The main issue is when the bag comes untied and product spills out. The bags get wrapped up in the bearings and rollers, and lines are then shut down.

Because of those types of issues, recycling centers are charging fees to counties that run recycling programs when that happens.

With the county utilizing the service of Republic Waste Services, Morris said they meet frequently, and in the past billing cycle, the county was charged for five separate contamination issues.

The trucks are now equipped with cameras so they can identify where the contamination comes from, and Morris said it is a disappointing development that people continue to simply toss entire bags into the recycling.

It has forced Morris to send employee Bob Spurgeon around to each of the recycling centers daily to go through recycling and empty and remove bags.

“We’ve got a couple of hot spots in the county, and we end up removing bags on a regular basis,” Morris said.

He said there are even signs posted at each recycling drop spot telling the public bags are not permitted, but that hasn’t stopped the incidents from continuing.

“It’s been an uphill battle, and we get dinged an additional $250 per contaminated container,” Morris said.

He said it has gotten to the point where they might be removing bags from containers, leave the premise and five minutes later there are more bags there.

Morris said Spurgeon has gotten into a routine of getting out on Mondays and Fridays ahead of the recycling truck to explore each site to remove possible contamination, and he said the Millersburg drop site, which has 10 containers, has been a major issue, costing the county as much as $1,000 a month in additional fees because of the bags.

“We’ve tried to make this as easy and convenient as possible for people to do the right thing,” Morris said. “It comes down to people simply taking the time to do the right thing.”

The rash of people simply hoisting their recycling placed in garbage bags into the bin has benefited Morris in one capacity.

“I haven’t bought any garbage bags in forever,” Morris said. “I continually have to take the recycled material out of the bags, and I end up just taking the bags home and reusing them.”

He said that concept is an ideal way to use garbage bags.

“When someone brings recycling in to drop off and it’s in big garbage bags, all they need to do is dump the recyclables into the bin, take the garbage bag home and reuse them, which is the ultimate recycling of the bags,” Morris said.

He said plastic clothes baskets also are easy to dump and make wonderful receptacles for recycling at home.

If a garbage bag is beyond using, Morris said the proper thing to do is to throw them into the trash rather than recycle them.

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