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Sonoco charging Camden for ‘contaminated recycling material’

City will remove recycling bins after warning residents

Posted: September 28, 2017 4:27 p.m.
Updated: September 29, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Provided by the city of Camden/

Starting Sunday, Sonoco Recycling began charging penalties to the city of Camden for the following items found among recycling hauls (left to right, from top down): mixed metals and wire, medical waste, hoses, clothing, food waste and plastic bags. Based on the number of recycling hauls it makes, the city could be charged up to $40,000 a year for Sonoco to deal with prohibited material or contaminants.

As of Sunday, Sonoco Recycling began charging the city of Camden for any “contaminated” recycling loads containing prohibited materials.

“As you recall, a year or so ago, we had to stop recycling glass because they couldn’t get rid of it,” City Manager Mel Pearson told Camden City Council near the end of its meeting last Tuesday evening. “They’re focused on contamination now, and we have a significant amount of material that is generally prohibited in the recycle process.”

Pearson said the city employs a “single-stream” outlet where the city transports recyclables by the truck load, and then Sonoco sorts through it and recovers recyclable materials.

“The level of contaminants -- everything from food to syringes and many other things they’re finding in that process -- has prompted Sonoco to … establish penalties. So, they’re going to warn us and if we don’t correct it, then if a load goes to that outlet and they find contaminants, they’ll decide whether to charge us a fee, which is a $250 handling fee per load. Then they’ll take it to the landfill and dump the entire load and charge us a $50 per ton disposal fee,” Pearson explained.

He said Camden sends a couple of truck per week to a Sonoco Recycling center in Columbia and estimated the possible charges to the city could reach $40,000 per year.

“We are asking the community to help us avoid those fees that could be significant,” he said. “Recycling is something we want to do. This is not a city decision; we are responding to a request from our outlet.”

Councilman Stephen Smoak asked if Sonoco was the only company the city could deal with on recycling matters. Pearson said there used to be a Sonoco-owned center in Hartsville but did not indicate whether there are currently any other alternatives.

Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford noted that one of the prohibited materials on Sonoco’s list is plastic bags. Other examples include mixed metal and wire, medical waste, hoses, clothing and food waste.

“That is unreal,” Drakeford commented.

Pearson confirmed that is the case and, following a question from Councilwoman Joanna Craig, that the city is only concerned about what goes in large blue recycle bins and not the large green garbage bins. Camden sends its household garbage (large green bins) to Lee County. Like Drakeford, Craig lamented the exclusion of plastic bags.

“(That’s) a problem because there isn’t a supermarket around -- there are, now, dissolvable plastic bags, but most of the supermarkets today have gotten off paper bags, they won’t do them anymore,” Craig said, suggesting the city might need to “have more of a partnership” with local grocery and other stores to get involved with the issue.

Smoak agreed that an educational campaign was “the way to go” in getting the public’s help in ensuring only truly recyclable materials are placed in recycle bins. However, he also wanted the city to continue making sure there aren’t other recycle vendors.

“I sure would like to recycle glass again at some point,” Smoak said.

“We found out about this during the month of September, and our reaction is to ask the community to help with sorting recycle material better,” Pearson said.

In a press release handed out during Pearson’s comments, the city said residents whose recycle bins are found to contain the prohibited materials will receive two written warnings. The city will also pick up the material in the recycle bin and place it on a garbage truck to be taken to the landfill instead of the recycling center.

“If you have a larger blue recycling container, your third warning will result in the removal of the blue container for a smaller green container,” city officials said in the press release, adding that this would help sanitation crews have a better view of what is being recycled. “If you have a small green container, your container will be removed and you will not be able to recycle. These may seem harsh; however, the city is not in a position to pay the fines or increased disposal fees.”

Residents with questions about the recycling can call the city’s sanitation and recycling division at (803) 425-7682.

In other business last Tuesday:

• Camden Fire Chief John Bowers reported that city employees raised nearly $21,000 -- about $800 more than in 2016 -- for the United Way of Kershaw County.

• Camden Fire Battalion Chief Chris Tidwell reported that this year’s Muscular Dystrophy Association Fill the Boot Drive raised nearly $14,100 during the Labor Day weekend despite rain on the first day of the drive, which was a Thursday.

• Council unanimously, with Councilman Jeffrey Graham absent, passed a measure proclaiming October 2017 as Fire Prevention Month.

• Council unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance rezoning a 23.3-acre property stretching from Campbell Street to Ehrenclou Drive from General Business District (GBD) to R-6 residential, which would allow high density development on lots of no less than 6,000 square feet. City Planner Shawn Putnam told council that, due to the development’s potential size and placement, it would be required to have two entrances, one on Ehrenclou Drive and the other on the western portion of Bull Street near Gordon Street. Pearson said that, if developers move forward, they would likely not create the Ehrenclou entrance until after truck route work is completed by the S.C. Department of Transportation. He also said utility work there may be altered in order to accommodate the development.

• Council unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance amending certain articles in the city’s zoning ordinance, most of which cleaned up confusing language.

• Council unanimously resolved to authorize the consumption of beer and wine during the 2017 Carolina Downhome Blues Festival.

• Council unanimously resolved committing $2,500 for a 10 percent match of a $25,000 Municipal Association of South Carolina Hometown Economic Development Grant that Pearson said should assist in paying for a large portion of a contract with The Retail Coach of Tupelo, Miss. The Retail Coach is assisting the city in conducting market research and other activities toward the recruitment of new businesses to locate in Camden.

• Camden Tourism/Economic Development Director Suzi Sale reported that a new audio tour app of the city -- “Camden, SC - Audio Tours” -- has been created and is now available for download from Apple’s App Store and will be available soon on Google Play for Android phones. Sale said the tours feature more than 100 sites in Camden. App users can choose from the city’s nine districts and includes text and photographs along with the audio. Sale said people can take virtual tours of the city from wherever they live or take self-guided tours while visiting Camden in person.

• Main Street Camden Program Manager Katharine Spadacenta reported that the city did receive a $10,000 matching AARP Livable Communities program grant to help transform an alleyway connecting Broad Street to the Town Green into a “vibrant throughway” to include benches, planters, shade “sails” and string lighting that can be used to hang public art.

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