Unicoi County is joining a growing list of municipalities that are scaling back recycling services.
Following Bristol, VA, Washington County, VA and Sullivan County, Unicoi County will no longer be accepting paper or plastic. Jamie Harris, co-chairman of the Unicoi County Commission and chairman of the county sanitation board, said he and others are seeking a solution as soon as possible.
“This is not something we’ve decided to do, it’s bad cards we’ve been dealt, and we’re trying to fix it,” Harris said. “I don’t want the people of Unicoi County to think it’s a service we’re taking away from them.”
Like the cities and counties before, the closure of Tri-Cities Waste Paper prompted the temporary discontinuation of services for Unicoi County. Harris said the county looked into using other recycling facilities in Carter and Wise counties, but those facilities aren’t viable for the county to continue using.
Harris explained that the county pays Waste Management to haul recyclables to a facility. If a facility rejects those recyclables, then the county has to pay an additional haul fee for Waste Management to transport the items to Iris Glen Environmental Center.
Artie Scott, the District Operations Manager for Tri-Cities Waste Management, said that the two facilities in Carter and Wise counties don’t usually take plastic or paper.
“Carter nor Wise has the ability to separate the different products,” he said. “They mainly deal in strict clean cardboard.”
Yet another factor in moving recyclables, Harris added, is the quality of the product.
He said that one piece of “contaminated” recyclables is enough to get an entire batch sent to the landfill. Not only do these facilities want clean, thoroughly-washed items – Harris said that even a paper label on a plastic water bottle is enough to get a load of recyclables trashed in some cases.
“We’ve got a place shut down, plus we have a problem the people don’t understand what they have to do, and they’re not following through with it,” he said. “They want this stuff spotless in order to take it.”
For the time being, Harris said, Unicoi County will be accepting cardboard while leaders work to solve the problem.
“One way or the other, we’re going to find a solution,” he said.