Today we look at the world of recycling with Wendy McNatt, Greenville County’s Recycling Coordinator, as we uncover the realities of landfill waste and explore effective recycling methods. Learn about local options, correct practices, and the impact of your choices. Join us in committing to reduce, reuse, and recycle in 2024, as we strive for a cleaner, greener community. Take a listen to find out how your everyday choices can make a significant difference!
Greenville County Solid Waste – https://www.greenvillecounty.org/solidwaste/
City of Greenville – https://www.greenvillesc.gov/286/Recycling-in-Greenville
Travelers Rest – https://travelersrestsc.com/recycling-information/
Fountain Inn – https://www.fountaininn.org/199/Solid-Waste-Collection
This episode of Simple Civics: Greenville County is brought to you by Fluor. Fluor Has a Tradition of Community Service. While Fluor’s core business centers on designing, constructing and maintaining complex and challenging capital projects, Fluor and its employees also help to build a better world by giving back to the communities where they live and work around the globe.
To learn more about Fluor’s commitment to communities like ours, visit fluor.com/sustainability/community.
[0:04] It’s the new year, and we want to offer a suggestion for a resolution that’s good for you and good for the environment.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle. At just the Twin Chimneys landfill in Greenville County, they bring in waste, not recyclables, but waste each day that is equal in weight to 1,230 cars.
That’s too much trash. I’m Katy Smith with Greater Good Greenville and on this episode of Simple Civics: Greenville County, I talk with Wendy McNatt, Recycling Coordinator with the Greenville County Solid Waste Division.
Wendy is an expert. She’s worked at the county for 21 years, and she has the details on recycling and tips for you to reduce, reuse, and recycle in 2024.
Wendy, thanks so much for joining us today to talk about recycling in Greenville County.
[0:58] Thank you for inviting me to be here.
[1:01] Great. So when we talk about recycling, it has obviously so many wonderful benefits, but the main immediate outcome is to keep stuff out of the landfill.
How much goes into our landfills in Greenville County?
[1:14] At Twin Chimneys Landfill, we receive over 1,600 tons a day.
Or if pounds is easier for you to think about, it’s over 3 million pounds a day.
[1:24] Oh my gosh, that is a lot of trash.
[1:28] It is a lot of trash. So it’s really important to keep recyclables out of the landfill.
We want recyclables to live on and to be made into new things.
If you want to think about it that way.
When something goes into the landfill, it is covered in dirt and it’s buried and it’s there forever.
It’s not made into anything new. So you want to give new life to your garbage and don’t throw it away.
Make that important decision and that choice to recycle it, to make it into something new.
[1:58] Can you start by giving us an overview of recycling in our community?
[2:02] Sure, absolutely. So let’s say you are new to Greenville County.
You just moved here and you’re an avid recycler and you want to do what you can to recycle everything in your home.
So the first questions that we ask are, well, where do you live?
Do you live in an area, a municipality like City of Greenville or City of Fountain Inn?
And if you do, then you would contact your city, Public Works, and they have recycling curbside services for you.
If you are not inside the city limits, then you would contact a private hauler.
[2:38] And we, you know, if you just call us or go to our website, we’ll be happy to find someone that services your area.
We’re always happy to answer questions and each hauler accepts different items.
So if you do not want to hire a private hauler and you do not live inside the city limits, then you’re welcome to use Greenville County’s recycling bins that we have located around the county.
We have six non-staffed locations.
And when I say non-staffed, that means it’s a recycling bin and a parking lot.
Some locations we might have four recycling bins, and they are for residents to use 24-7.
If you would like to visit our convenience centers or residential waste and recycling centers, some people also refer to them as the dump.
When I do presentations and tours and I say, you know, have any of you visited our residential waste and recycling centers?
I get blank stares and then I’ll say, have you been to the dump?
Oh yeah, they raise their hand.
So they lovingly call it the dump.
But anyway, we have recycling containers there for residents to use as well.
And that’s a staff location.
[3:52] Well, whenever I have gone to the dump, you know, that’s what we call it in my house.
But when we get there, it is run with the efficiency of something that is worthy of the title center.
Rather than dump. So kudos and thanks to you and your colleagues.
Does each of the cities have curbside recycling or only Fountain Inn and the city of Greenville?
[4:13] Some of them do. Some of them do not. City of Simpsonville recently stopped their curbside collection and City of Travelers Rest.
Also, Greater Greenville Sanitation Commission.
They are separate from Greenville County. They service the area right outside the city limits of Greenville.
They stopped their recycling services in March.
So that displaced about 10,000 homes for recycling.
So we knew we were going to have to absorb that. So we very quickly, you know, looked at our program and said, well, what can we do to minimize the cost?
[4:50] So if someone does live in the county and was interested in finding a private hauler, what would you suggest they do?
[4:56] I suggest they use Google. That might be, you know, easier and faster for them, but if they would like to, they can call us anytime, you know, during business hours and we’ll be happy to help them find a private hauler in their area.
[5:10] That’s great.
I bet the scale of what you do is pretty significant. Can you share some numbers with us?
[5:16] Sure, absolutely. I did want to share, you know, because you have been to the residential waste and recycling centers or the dump as you…
[5:24] I’ll never call it that again.
[5:26] No, that’s okay, as you call it. We do service a lot of Greenville County citizens at those locations.
About 1.74 million residents visit those centers annually.
[5:43] Oh my gosh.
[5:45] So that is a lot of Greenville County residents going to those facilities.
[5:50] And well, since it’s more than the number of residents, people are going multiple times and producing a lot of waste and recyclables.
[5:57] Yes, they are. So the recycling, the numbers I’m going to give you are just the tons in our boxes that we have.
So in our recycling containers that we have around the county annually, we collect over 3,000 tons, close to 4,000 tons annually in just those bins.
And that’s just recycling, plastic bottles and jugs and cardboard and paper and metal cans.
[6:24] Are you seeing any trends in those numbers, not just in the numbers themselves, but in the things that comprise those numbers like Amazon boxes or something like that?
[6:34] Yes, of course. So we also have balers at some of our residential waste and recycling centers. So we do bale cardboard and the bale cardboard numbers have increased from last year, about 17 percent.
So we have seen an increase in the cardboard boxes. You know, there are a lot of newcomers to the area.
All of the county is growing. So in turn, you have cardboard boxes from moving and then you also have the Amazon cardboard boxes.
[7:07] So if someone is unsure about recycling, they’re interested in doing it, but they’re not exactly sure what’s recyclable, or they’re not even sure of the value of it.
They saw a thing on the news or read a thing or saw a photo on Facebook.
They think this isn’t worth it. What would you say to those folks?
[7:25] I would say it is worth it. Absolutely. And it is really easy to recycle.
It’s also easy to find out what you can recycle.
If you have a private hauler or if you live in a municipality, contact that municipality or that hauler to make sure that you’re putting the proper items in your bin.
If you are using one of Greenville County’s recycling bins, you can check our website, greenvillecounty.org, or you can call us.
We’ll be more than happy to talk to you just to clear up any misconceptions because we want to, you know, have the correct items in the bin.
If you’re in doubt, throw it out. Please don’t contaminate the bin.
And one thing I did want to address is, you know, we do have certain items that we do collect in the bin and certain items that we do not.
But plastic bags are tanglers for the machines at the material recovery facility.
So those are very bad for the recycling programs.
They do contaminate, you know, the recyclables in the bin and they do tear up the machines.
So if you love to bag your recyclables, please put it in a paper bag and toss it in, you know, and then recycle your paper bag or reuse it.
[8:49] That’s a good tip. And it actually helps resolve a debate in our our household, which I have just won, because we do have two bins, one for trash and one for recyclables, which we put a plastic bag in each.
And I advise that people take the bag and dump it and bring it back in the house.
And I’m told it’s plastic. So thank you.
[9:10] Yeah, you’re welcome. You’re welcome.
[9:13] Oh my goodness. So as we put things into our bins, what are the things you’re looking for that are perfect for folks to recycle?
[9:21] Those items would be plastic bottles and jugs with a neck, metal cans, mixed paper, any type of paper, cardboard.
That is what we love to see in our bins.
[9:35] Wonderful. Do we need to wash things out? The Campbell’s soup can, do we rinse it first?
[9:40] You don’t have to rinse it. If you want to, that’d be great.
But, you know, at least empty it out.
[9:46] What do you see in the bin that’s a misconception that people assume is perfectly recyclable, but actually is not?
[9:53] Well, in, you know, in this area, in our bins, we receive some yogurt cups, butter tubs, pots that you might put a plant in, any type of, you know, cup-looking plastic type of cup are in there.
So we do get some contamination. So it’s really important that, you know, the more we educate our residents, the more proper items that are in the bin.
So if you do have plastic cups, yogurt cups, butter tubs, even though it has a little triangle on the bottom, we only want the plastic bottles with a neck and plastic jugs.
[10:38] That’s helpful to hear because there’s the triangle on a lot of things and I suppose what you’re saying is it’s up to the entity doing the recycling if that triangle pertains to them.
[10:51] It is yes because every community is different.
All cities are different. All states are different. So you really need to find out what is accepted, you know, in your community from your hauler.
What will they pick up from your bin?
[11:05] So it sounds like different providers make different choices about what things are acceptable.
So, and because people who are listening might have different providers from the city they live in or whomever they’ve hired to haul, they should all consult with their provider for that list.
[11:20] Okay, great. The bin is taken, it’s hauled off. What happens to it here in Greenville County?
[11:27] All of the recyclables that are collected in the bins are hauled to Pratt Industries in Duncan, where they are sorted and baled and sold.
Most of the recyclables stay within the southern area of the United States. It’s not sent overseas.
[11:45] Interesting. And so there are people who are residents of our upstate area that are having to sort through all of the things that folks have correctly or mistakenly put in there.
So what do you think those people would say they wish people knew and wish people did?
[12:03] They would say, recycle right, recycle correctly.
Please don’t contaminate the bin because those items, you know, they need to be recycled.
And the bin only has a certain amount of space in it.
And if we fill it up with items that aren’t supposed to go in there, then the bin’s going to fill up faster.
You know, so if you’re shoving in plastic bags and big plastic pots, well, the bin’s going to get full and there’s not going to be enough room in there for what really needs to be in there.
[12:34] No solo cups, I presume. So watch it, people.
[12:37] Yeah, no solo cups.
[12:40] It’s helpful for me to think of it in that way to motivate my behavior because I want to do it for the environment, of course.
But there is someone whose day is going to be made better or worse by the things that I send through correctly or incorrectly.
So after it goes to Pratt Industries, gets sorted, gets baled, and gets sold.
What kind of things are made out of the things that we recycle here in Greenville County?
[13:05] Well, the aluminum can that you may have had a Coke or Pepsi out of can be recycled back into a new aluminum can.
It’s the same for plastic bottles. They can be recycled back into a plastic bottle.
So some plastic bottles are even recycled into t-shirts and clothing, stuffing for coats, puffy coats, and sleeping bags and socks.
So, you know, technology has come a long way. So it’s really cool.
Some of the items, you know, they can be made into some really cool things that are able to be reused and not end up in the landfill where they’re buried.
Never to be used again, never to be seen again.
[13:44] So interesting. However, I suppose the process of producing that, of transporting it, of manufacturing it, and then sending it back out again itself does have an environmental impact.
So it’s probably better for people to try to reduce the stuff they have to recycle even.
[14:00] You know, I just like to remind everyone to think about, you know, instead of using something one time, reuse it if you can. You know, water bottles, for example.
If you have a favorite water bottle, make sure you use that instead of grabbing just a one-use water bottle.
If you bring your lunch, you know, you can have a waste-free lunch.
You don’t have to pack your lunch in Ziploc bags that are just going to be thrown away or a plastic bag that’s going to be thrown away.
You can use reusable utensils, reusable water bottles, reusable containers to put your food in that can be reused again.
When you’re shopping, you know, at the store, you can take your bags into the store, use your own bag instead of using a plastic bag that will just be thrown away.
So, you know, there are things you can do. You can prevent the waste from happening in the first place by the choices you make as a consumer.
[15:04] That’s great. So I keep thinking about the bin that is in my kitchen that I’m going to throw my empty tomato soup can into, but there are probably a lot of other things that aren’t kitchen-related that I could recycle.
What tips would you give to folks about those items?
[15:19] Yeah, we recycle a lot more items that you would just put in your regular curbside bin in Greenville County. For example, cooking oil.
Please don’t pour your cooking oil down the drain you don’t want the plumber to visit on Thanksgiving or Christmas or any special event at all. Cooking oil can be recycled, motor oil if you change your own oil you can bring your motor oil and your filters to one of our facilities. Also antifreeze. You can bring your antifreeze to us for recycling. Lead acid batteries. You may also bring electronics from your home you know we encourage you to bring your electronics to us instead of letting it pile up at your home. Go ahead and bring it on over and we’ll take care of it and also tires. If you have a few tires, you know, if you change your own tires and you don’t take it to a tire shop, you can bring your tires to our facility.
[16:19] Wonderful. Regarding electronics, because I bet that maybe folks have, like I do, a drawer full of old cell phones or the laptop that you’re sure something valuable is on.
In what state should folks bring those things? Any recommendations of what to do to prepare to bring it or just bring it?
[16:37] You can just bring it to us as is. Yeah. And we’ll take care of it. Yeah.
And any type of metal, you can bring that to us as well. You know, an old lawnmower, a basketball goal.
And that will get recycled as well.
[16:53] So big, big items, you know, that won’t fit in your curbside bin.
But they’re metal. They are valuable. We recycle those as well.
[16:59] Wonderful. Well, I suppose there’s things that could be recycled outside of my house, like the limbs that I cut off when I do major yard work or if a tree falls during an ice storm. Can you all handle those things?
[17:12] Absolutely. You can bring that to us and we grind selected yard waste into mulch.
We give away mulch to Greenville County residents. Half a scoop is free.
You can contact us for the details of times that we offer that service to you.
And last year we recycled 1,500 tons of yard trimmings into compost and 1,000 tons of yard trimmings into mulch.
[17:39] Oh my goodness, what a great service on both ends to get rid of it and get something for your yard.
Well, will you recap for us what are the things to put in the bin this year?
[17:51] Sure, so the items that we will accept in our bins in Greenville County are plastic bottles and jugs with a neck, metal cans, mixed paper, which is all paper, and cardboard.
So those are the items that we love to see in the bins.
No glass, unfortunately. No plastic bags.
If you’re in doubt, throw it out, and don’t contaminate the bin.
Make all those recyclables happy.
[18:19] Wendy, thanks so much for joining us and for all that you and your colleagues do.
And I hope that all of you listening will make it your New Year’s resolution in 2024 to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Thanks so much.
[18:30] Thank you. You are very welcome.
Catherine Puckett: Simple Civics: Greenville County is a project of Greater Good Greenville. Greater Good Greenville was catalyzed by the merger of the Nonprofit Alliance and the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy. You can learn more on our website at greatergoodgreenville.org. This is a production of Podcast Studio X.
Image via Yuliya Furman on Canva.