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Jefferson County Steps Up Recycling and Reuse Efforts

A new E-waste recycling center, expanded tire recycling, county-wide paper shredding events and other initiatives are keeping more material out of landfill in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

By Kevin Litwin on July 22, 2014

With each passing year, less and less waste makes it into Jefferson County landfills.

A new E-waste recycling center, expanded tire recycling, countywide paper shredding events and other initiatives are keeping more material out of the landfill. To say the region is aggressive about recycling is an understatement.

“Standard recycling is one goal, but our definition includes adding reuse and waste diversion as forms of recycling,” says Andrew Armstrong, director of the Southeast Arkansas Regional Solid Waste District. “If it stays out of the landfill, we are doing our job.”

Downed trees are processed and used as mulch on roads during ice storms. Stepped-up recycling efforts collected more than 320,000 tires in 2013 for processing. The new E-waste effort sent 100 tractor trailer loads of consumer electronics to a federal prison facility in Texarkana, where computers, televisions and busted cell phones are broken down into components and raw materials for secondary markets. The Jefferson County facility takes pretty much “anything with a cord,” except for microwave ovens, Armstrong says.

Targeting Tires for Recycling, New Markets

The region supports recycling projects for global as well as local reasons. Tires are a landfill menace. Unlike much waste, they cannot be compacted, making them expensive space hogs. And eventually they float to the top.

Leftovers from tire recycling can be dumped in a Class 4 landfill, rather than a Class 1 landfill, which saves the county and taxpayers money, Armstrong says.

The expanded center at Pine Bluff, which serves 10 counties in southeast Arkansas, produces a tire-derived fuel used in paper and steel mills. An aggressive marketing effort is targeting additional and more stable markets. The Southeast Arkansas Solid Waste District would need additional equipment to produce other byproducts, like rubber for playgrounds, rubber mulch and crunch rubber, but it does have heavy machinery that pulls the metal off each tire for resale, Armstrong says.

Jefferson County also has natural resources to protect, including an abundant ground water supply. Liberty Utilities Co. completed its purchase of United Water, which served about 17,000 customers in Pine Bluff, in 2013. The company also has operations in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire and Texas.

Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility boasts the largest municipal aerated lagoon wastewater treatment plant in the United States. The state-of-the-art technology at the utility’s Boyd Point Treatment Facility has been endorsed by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, winning multiple gold and platinum awards for peak performance.

Recycling Events a Big Hit

Jefferson County continues to boost its recycling efforts. At its E-waste Recycling Center, the Solid Waste District collects the material, packs it on pallets and sends it to Texarkana to be broken down.

“You would be amazed at the amount of E-waste out there,” Armstrong says. “Today, if something breaks, people aren’t going to pay to fix it; they are going to replace it.”

The Pine Bluff-Jefferson County Clean and Beautiful Commission hosted one E-recycling event in 2013 that attracted outdated equipment, computers and monitors from several school districts, says Kelli Kennedy, the commission’s executive director.

For 2014, Kennedy also plans to add a second shredding event after a successful one in November 2013. “It is the biggest request we get,” she says.

The commission is an affiliate of Keep Arkansas Beautiful, and participates in both the national and state cleanup days. The county is donating recycling containers to school districts, and the sheriff’s department is working on permanent spots where people can turn in their empty prescription bottles and outdated medicine to keep it out of landfills.

Jefferson County plans to install recycling containers at a county-owned building to accommodate residents who want to get more involved. Pine Bluff’s recycling center will also relocate to the new facility.

And the county is going after more tires. In February, the waste district began imposing a disposal fee for off-road tires, adding them to the recycling program.

“We want to get as close to zero waste as we can,” Armstrong says.

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