BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Some Berkeley County locals want answers after finding their curbside recycling fee is jumping 5 times its old rate.
"I recycle every week. We really try to be sustainable," Marcy Whitfield said. Whitfield said she used to pay around $8 a quarter for the optional pickup service. Now the rate is $15 a month, totaling around $180 a year.
"I've talked to a couple of neighbors," Whitfield said. "They're also upset that the price went up and we all agreed that we're probably not going to pay one hundred and eighty dollars when there's a d rop off site."
Berkeley County leaders say the price increase, plus new recycling restrictions, stem from the closing of Charleston's Romney Street facility last year.
"There is no sorting facility for us locally so people now have to take recyclables two hours, fours hours away," Berkeley County Public Information Officer Michael Mule said. "That cost has made the recycling a lot more difficult."
Multiple governments contracted with Sonoco Recycling to use the Romney Street site, including Summerville which resorted to paper and cardboard pickup only last year. Now town leaders are working on an option for locals to pay a small fee to get full curbside recycling back. The town's only collected paper and cardboard since last fall.
According to a town spokesperson, before the opt-in program can begin, the Town and currant waste contractor Waste Pro will need to either amend the contract to include the opt-in program or execute an agreement addressing the opt-in program. Waste Pro will then install the equipment needed at the Town's transfer station to deliver the single stream recycling to before hauling it to the Columbia Materials Recovery Facility. Summerville officials expect the opt-in program to begin around the beginning of 2017.
Mule said rates are driven by transportation costs and commodities, making it a difficult market for recycling.
In fact, Charleston County Environmental Management officials said the county will spend about $1.4 million per year to send its recycling to Horry County while they wait for the new recycling center to open late next year. The county did recently receive a $3,000 revenue check for the materials this past month, according to officials, who add they haven't restricted what materials can be recycled.
Berkeley County's contract with Sonoco Recycling expired this summer, hence the recent change in recyclables, Mule said.
Sonoco Recycling spokesperson Mike Pope confirmed the company had an agreement in place with Berkeley County to accept the material collected at their convenience sites through August 31, 2016. "\While our agreement with Charleston County to operate the Romney Street facility terminated effective July 31, 2015, Sonoco Recycling honored our commitment to Berkeley County and at our cost, paid to ship their recyclable materials to our facility in Columbia for processing," Pope said.
Pope said the new contract allows for Berkeley County to process single stream recyclables of cardboard and paper at its North Charleston facility.
In the meantime, Berkeley County council is moving forward with its own recycling center to be operated by RePower South.
"While it's a short term problem, we do have a long term solution and that's with our new sorting facility at the landfill," Mule said, adding the facility is expected to begin operations in early 2018.