Recycling program to double, adding homes in east and north Macon

The city of Macon plans to double its recycling efforts, adding pickup service to 500 homes in east Macon and another 500 homes in north Macon, officials said Tuesday.

Every household in Macon already can recycle paper curbside, but about a year ago the city started a pilot program with 1,000 homes in the Intown and Vineville neighborhoods for single-stream recycling, which allows residents to put all their recyclables — with the exception of glass — in the same container without having to separate them first.

Public Works Director Richard Powell said he doesn’t know exactly when the program will begin or when the city will notify the affected homes, but he thinks everything should be in place by April.

The expanded recycling will be made possible by reducing the number of city garbage routes from 10 to 9, freeing up a truck, Powell said. The new garbage routes will begin March 1.

The recycling expansion came out of negotiations with the Georgia Environmental Protection Agency that fined the city $25,000 last November for issues such as having trees at the landfill and for filling in spots around the landfill out of order.

Though Powell said he lobbied to have the fine removed completely by expanding the recycling program, the environmental agency reduced the fine to $12,500.

“I figured it’d be better to spend that money on something, for recycling, than to just hand it over,” Powell said. He added that the city already has removed 75 percent of the trees at the landfill and will have that job finished well before the April 15 deadline.

The recycling expansion, he said, will help the program pay for itself. “Adding these homes will help us generate more revenue from recycling,” Powell said. “When you have more volume, your materials are worth more.”

During the economic downturn, Powell said, prices for materials took a nosedive as warehouses around the world became filled with recyclables that wouldn’t sell. As the economy improves, he said, revenue should improve.

Councilman Tom Ellington, a supporter of the recycling program, said the declining revenue from the program has made it difficult to expand.

“The bottom of the (recycling) market just fell out,” he said. “In this budget environment, it’s hard to justify that cost.”

Fortunately, Powell points out, it won’t cost the city anything extra to add these 1,000 homes to the program because of the new garbage truck routes.

Officials are hopeful the program will continue to grow.

“This is one more step towards the long-term goal of citywide single-stream recycling,” Ellington said.

Keith Moffett, the mayor’s director of internal affairs, agreed.

“It’s a good thing to do for the environment and a good thing to do for the city,” he said. “It helps us continue building up the recycling program around the city.”

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report.

To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.