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Recycling still going strong

By Ed Brock

Sally Maddox of Stockbridge started recycling about five years ago, around the same time she became a mother.

"It was probably having kids and knowing that I needed to be more conscious of the environment," Maddox said.

And with two young sons who drink a lot of Gatorade and other drinks, she's got plenty of plastic bottles to get rid of.

For Kathy Chapman, her children are also her motivation for recycling.

"Somebody's going to have to live next to a landfill and I don't want it to be my kids," Chapman said.

Clayton and Henry counties both have recycling programs, as does the city of Forest Park. The directors of each program say they continue to grow and some of them have special events coming up in the next two months.

On Oct. 9 Forest Park will once again hold its semi-annual "Clean Sweep" program. From 9 a.m. to noon the recycling center at 327 Lamar Drive will be open to collect everything from yard waste and batteries to tires to wood and furniture.

The only things they won't accept are unknown chemicals and pesticides and commercial truck tires, said Mike Gippert, Forest Park director of public works, and this event is only for residents of Forest Park.

Gippert said the last Clean Sweep was held in April.

"We collected tons of stuff," Gippert said.

More specifically, they collected 25 tons of metal, 55 pounds of aluminum (40 pounds of aluminum cans), 450 tires, 250 pounds of cardboard, 140 gallons of oil and three tons of plastic.

Like the Clayton and Henry counties recycle programs, the Forest Park program does not provide curbside service. It is open from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Also like its county counterparts, the Forest Park program just collects the recyclable material and then several other companies collect the various material. Newell Recycling on Central Avenue in East Point picks up the metal and Southern Paper on Frontage Road picks up their paper.

The Clayton County recycling program started in the mid-1980s with drop-off points in two different parking lots, said Edie Yongue with Keep Clayton County Beautiful. Later they moved to a location on South Main Street in Jonesboro.

"It just grew way out of proportion, we couldn't take the material that was coming in," Yongue said.

That's when they moved into their current facility at 1430 Ga. Highway 138 Spur near Jonesboro, across from Clayton County Animal Control. They take newspapers and magazines, cardboard boxes (without the bag that contained food products like cereal), clear and colored No. 1 and No. 2 plastic and glass.

According to the Clayton County Landfill's last quarterly report for April through June, the program brought in 31.77 tons of tires in that quarter, 11.55 tons of plastic, 10.73 tons of mattresses, 634.03 tons of metal, 65.45 tons of cardboard, one tone of aluminum cans, 22.2 tons of glass and 17.45 tons of paper.

The center also takes old cell phones, Yongue said, and on Nov. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Atlanta State Farmer's Market in Forest Park they will hold a special event to collect old computers and computer equipment.

Not everybody understands that the program doesn't take everything, like certain plastics and oil, said the recycling drop-off attendant Jerry Lewis.

"Some people get mad because we have rules," Lewis said.

They also don't break down the cardboard boxes that they bring in, meaning the boxes take up more storage space.

"We've got boxes in there you can put a vehicle in," Lewis said.

Maddox said she's grown adept over the years at keeping her recyclable items separated. She has a small box she keeps in her garage with different sections.

Yongue said her dropoff point does not take oil, and that's a problem for Pam Tallman of Jonesboro. Her husband changes the oil on their cars at home.

"Oil is one of the things we find a hard time getting rid of," Tallman said.

The Henry County Recycle center on Ga. Highway 81 just west of McDonough Square takes oil, said James Hamm, president of the service. They also take small quantities of gasoline on occasion.

Annually the program processes around 504,000 tons of commercial material, 10,000 tons of industrial waste and 53,000 tons of residential waste, said Mary Cleveland, yard supervisor.

Also annually the center processes approximately 6,000 tons of aluminum, 156,000 tons of cardboard, 108,000 tons of glass, 75,000 tons of paper, 180,000 tons of steel and tin and 300,000 tons of other material.

They also pay for aluminum cans, Cleveland said.

"People don't want to just recycle them, they want to get money out of them," Cleveland said, adding that it's not just the homeless who collect the cans. "It's everybody."

The center does charge fees for disposing of some things. Refrigerators and freezers cost $10 each and other appliances like water heaters, washers and dryers and dishwashers cost $5. Freezers and refrigerators cost extra because they contain the chemical freon, Cleveland said.

While the Henry County center takes stale gasoline in some cases, disposing of it in larger quantities is more difficult. Georgia Environmental Specialists in Morrow collects gas from clients such as car dealerships and junkyards, but not from the public, said the company's Vice President Weldon Price.

But Price did recommend that people with old gas try taking it to a car dealership or oil change business and ask it they will take it since they may have a service that collects it, such as Price's company.

He also said that old gas that hasn't turned into gelatin could be mixed with new gasoline in a vehicle. He recommended adding a half a gallon at a time to an almost full tank of gas.

But if the gas has been stored in a large container that is not completely full, there is a chance of condensation, which would mean moisture could mix with the gas, making it useless.

Recently there have been those who criticize the recycling process. In his article "Recycling is Garbage," New York Times staff writer John Tierney calls the process wasteful, an obsession that began in 1987 with the story of the Mobro 4000, a garbage barge that "wandered thousands of miles trying to unload its cargo of Long Islanders' trash."

While admitting that recycling works for some material some times, he contends that the best place for most garbage is in a landfill, adding that the late 1980s belief that there was a shortage of landfill space was a "false alarm."

But Gippert, Yongue and Cleveland said recycling continues to grow in popularity and still serves a good purpose.

There may be plenty of space for landfills, Gippert said, but Environmental Protection Agency regulations make it difficult to build many of them. And recycling allows for innovative companies to be formed, Gippert said.

Yongue echoed that, saying recycling means new companies and new jobs.

"Why just bury it and let it sit there?" Yongue said.

Chapman, who is a real estate agent for MetroBrokers in Clayton and Henry counties, said she believes in recycling so much that whenever she shows homes to her customers she also shows them where the recycling centers are in both counties.

"If I didn't believe in it I wouldn't do it," Chapman said.