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State offering grants to help local governments go green

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) is accepting applications for its 2008 Recycling and Waste Reduction Grant Program.

The grants are aimed at helping county and municipal governments move toward becoming greener communities, by managing waste disposal and recycling more efficiently.

The grant funds -- appropriated through the state's Solid Waste Trust Fund -- total $233,000 this year. Applications are available on the GEFA web site at www.gefa.org, and will be accepted until Jan. 30.

GEFA communications and marketing director, Shane Hix, said that since 1996, the program has awarded more than $11 million to cities and counties seeking to reduce their waste.

During last year's program, a $22,500 grant was awarded to the city of Alpharetta for a one-day hazardous waste collection event; $63,250 was awarded to Atlanta to help in the electronic collection of recycling data and in labeling all of the city's recycling bins; and $16,946 was awarded to Camilla, Ga., in Mitchell County, for the purchase of a new forklift for its recycling program.

Hix said that since the grants can be used for a variety of projects, they can be very useful to cities seeking to expand their recycling and disposal efforts. In the past, grants have been used to host recycling events and composting programs, to buy recycling equipment, construct recycling centers, and to educate the public through recycling demonstrations.

"There's a benefit to the environment by recycling, and it reduces the amount of waste that we send to landfills," said Hix. "As communities grow, landfill space becomes more of a premium. The more we recycle, the less we have to rely on our landfills."

Edie Yongue, director of the Keep Clayton County Beautiful Program, said the grants could be very useful to the county government, which is currently seeking to build two new recycling centers -- one in Riverdale at a location yet to be determined, and one in Lake City on the North Parkway industrial corridor.

Yongue said that from 1999, until February of this year, the county conducted once-a-year, bulky waste pick-up in several neighborhoods through Operation Clean Sweep. Since the program ended, however, the only place people can take care of their recycling needs is the Clayton County Landfill. She said the center is out of the way for most people and charges a fee to receive items.

"What we've had in place for so many years was good, but we were rural," said Yongue. "Now that we are so populated ... we've got to do something else. A lot of our people are not going to drive 15 miles to Lovejoy."

Yongue said the recycling centers, which a GEFA grant may help establish, would be available to citizens five days a week, free of charge, and will help decrease the "amount of stuff on people's lawns.

"It will give us a better chance to educate our citizens on being personally responsible, and not just dropping their stuff off on Grant Road," said Yongue.

James Hamm, director of Keep Henry County Beautiful, could not be reached for comment.