By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
At the Dade
County Transfer Station, many residents routinely sling cardboard pizza boxes,
plastic jugs and other easily recyclable materials into the garbage bins to be
dumped pell-mell into the county landfill along with the chicken bones and used
At the glass
recycling bins a few yards away, meanwhile, more green-minded Dade Countians
separate their primly rinsed bottles and jars into, from left to right, bins
for green, brown and clear glass.
But if the
glass recyclers have felt any sense of moral superiority to their less
ecologically-inclined neighbors, they might have saved themselves the exposure
to the deadly sin of pride. For some time, their glass has been emptied into
the landfill along with those maggoty chicken carcasses and everything else
Dade County throws away. The county government decided quietly some time ago
that recycling the bottles and jars was financially unfeasible but has kept the
decision, as it were, under glass.
“We didn’t want
to pull the bin and get people out of the habit of it until we knew for sure,”
said Dade County Executive and Commission Chairman Ted Rumley, questioned about
the recycling question of Wednesday.
Asked how long
the county had been protecting the virtue of its residents in this fashion,
Rumley replied, “Probably a year at least.” Later he amended that to: “Maybe
As yet, the
Sentinel has not ascertained when the county stopped the glass recycling.
saying, we’ll be able to start back,” said Rumley.
He referred the
Sentinel to county maintenance boss Billy Massengale for details. Massengale
explained the decision had been financial. “In the past we used to take it to
Orange Grove. They would take it for free,” he said. “Then Orange Grove
notified me for us to donate it, we would have to pay them.”
Chattanooga’s recycling powerhouse, which is associated with a teaching center
and work program for the developmentally disabled, had been taking its glass to
a facility south of Atlanta and had been losing money on the operation itself,
said Massengale. Dade County, meanwhile,
had also been in the red giving the glass away.
“If we could
donate it for free to them, by the time we paid a man a couple of hours to go
to town and back and benefits and all, you’re looking at $60 to $75 to donate
one load of glass,” said Massengale. “We can put it in the landfill for $27. I
don’t think the taxpayers want to pay an extra 30-something dollars to recycle
both Massengale, there’s nothing wrong with putting glass in landfills: It
leaks no contaminants and does not pollute. “According to the EPD
[Environmental Protection Division], glass is the best thing to put in a
landfill,” said Massengale.
reiterated the sentiment: “If it was plastic, I’d have a bad problem, but glass
is one of the best products you can put in a landfill.”
So far, there
has been no evidence that the county is not recycling the other materials it
represents itself as recycling. Massengale said the county makes anywhere from
15 cents a pound for plastic to $110 for 1,000 pounds of newspaper. “On the
recycling, on the cardboard, newspaper and plastic and aluminum, we actually
make a profit on it,” he says. “It pays the salaries of the men doing it, the
electricity, and we make a little bit on it when the price is up. But the
prices will fluctuate as much as $130 a thousand down to $40 a thousand, just
depending on the market.”
that though the recycling does pay for itself, that plus the tipping fee for
garbage comes nowhere near making revenues cover the expense of keeping the
dump open or paying employees to staff it. Rather, it is a county service.
Mountain resident Mark Issenberg, who brought the glass problem to the
Sentinel’s attention, said he understood the economic angle for the decision
but wished the county had been more forthcoming about it. “All those people who
went through the aggravation of sorting it by color and bringing it down here
to the dumpster, thinking we’re doing the green thing, and it turns out we’re
not – everybody else I’ve talked to has been upset about it also,” he said.
Issenberg said he’d been at the Canyon Grill,
which was not itself in the habit of recycling glass, so he was gathering up
bottles to take with him on his next trip to the transfer station, when he’d
been alerted by a man there he didn’t know that the county no longer recycled
glass. Issenberg said he talked to a number of county officials a number of
times before he was at last able to ascertain this was true. “We were trusting
our government to take care of it properly,” he said.
night’s Dade County Commission meeting, Rumley announced that the newest
commissioner, Allan Bradford, who in November won the District 4 seat from
incumbent Peter Cervelli, would be the new committeeman on the transfer station
beat. Bradford, making his first committee report, explained about the finances
of the glass decision but made no acknowledgement that the county had
deliberately kept mum about it.
Has the county
been having a quiet laugh at the expense of its greener taxpayers? As of
Wednesday afternoon, the glass recycling bin was still in place at the transfer
station, and when the Sentinel inquired of an employee if the glass was
recycled, the employee replied with: