Friday, September 11, 2009

DeKalb Sanitation

Soon Dunwoody residents will be asked to speak at public hearings regarding the issue of trash pickup in Dunwoody. The city has a deal in place with DeKalb that expires in 2010. The city can renew with DeKalb or choose a private vendor (most likely Waste Management or Allied).

The city could choose to open things up and let us, the homeowners, choose who we want. The city could set guidelines and approve private haulers to operate within the city, then homeowners could then select (like we do for natural gas). But I doubt that will happen so no use me discussing that here.

Since I know Council will not open things up, I firmly believe staying with DeKalb is our best option. Many of us did not like some of the 'services' DeKalb provided BD (Before Dunwoody), but I am convinced trash hauling is something we keep.

Not one to hide behind a keyboard waiting for someone to email me a hot story, I hauled myself down to DeKalb's new Central Transfer Station. This place is down near the county jail off of Memorial Drive at I-285.

I toured the new admin building there and met with a DeKalb sanitation official for my tour. Let's back up a minute. DeKalb has three transfer stations: Central, East, and North.

Pretend you are your trash bag. We'll call you 'Brown'. First you'll get filled with all sorts of nasty stuff, then you'll be placed into a large can, most likely outdoors beside the family garage. Then on Monday 'Big Yellow' comes rumbling down the street, a guy jumps off the back bumper and tosses you into the back of the truck. Here you'll make close friends with other Dunwoody trash bags, mainly from your own neighborhood.

Those trucks rolling through Dunwoody can carry 4000 to 16000 pounds of trash (average truck is 4 ton).

Once the truck is full of bags you'll take a ride to Buford Hwy. You'll arrive at the North Transfer Station on Buford Hwy. You'll be dumped onto the ground. Here you'll see your bag friends from the neighborhood, and you'll meet new friends from other parts of Dunwoody. You'll see bags from Vanderlyn area, Chesnut, Kingsley, and some of your Austin bag buddies. Sorta like a swim meet. But don't get too comfortable! A rubber tire loader will scoop you up and put you in a large trailer (these trailers hold 80,000 pounds of trash). This large trailer will then haul you to your final resting place; Seminole Road Landfill.. The Native American ancestors must be proud to have their tribe name chosen for the landfill road. (Waste Management operates their own landfill in N Georgia).

No one seems to care what landfill the trash ends up in, just so we can't smell it. I have heard chatter regarding the recycling program, thus the reason for my adventure to the Central Transfer Station off of Memorial Drive.

It is here your recycling materials go on Wednesday afternoons. I planned my trip to follow my blue bag of recyclables. I named this week's bag of empties 'Blue'. After being picked up over here on the west side of Dunwoody my recycled waste made it to 'Central' Wednesday evening where it was dumped on a concrete floor. I met my bag on Thursday morning and saw him get scooped up by a rubber-tired loader and dumped into one of those huge trailers.

Quick Fact: Dunwoody (ZIP Code 30338) has 2973 households participating in its recycling program, and has 10 businesses participating. I do not have numbers on other Dunwoody ZIP codes like 30350, 30346, and 30360. (I think that ten businesses participating in recycling is a very low number considering the number of businesses in that ZIP. Perhaps the Chamber could encourage businesses to sign up)

Side Note: DeKalb Sanitation will come up to our fairs and festivals upon request. They will offer recycling tips and show off those nice shiny blue tubs on wheels. Contact Sheri L Arnold .

Okay, let's get back to my boy Blue. Last we heard Blue was dumped on a floor then scooped up and thrown into a large trailer. What next for this mixed bag of recyclables? Blue will take a ride to Forest Park, GA to the SP Recycling Center. Don't let their pretty web site fool you. The recycling center is not lined with flowers and winding trails across lush green space. A recycling center is noisy, dusty, and noisy, yet a couple of steps above a land fill. I did some research on SP and found them to be one of the best in the business. They have locations across the country, including Forest Park, GA.

DeKalb has a contract with SP Recycling Corp. that probably expires around the same time Dunwoody's contract expires with DeKalb. DeKalb is not the only sanitation department taking their recyclables to SP. Haulers from Cobb, Atlanta, Gwinnett, and all over Atlanta take their recyclables to SP - and so does Waste Management. No matter who Dunwoody uses our recyclables will most likely end up in Forest Park at SP.

Quick Facts: SP takes in over 6000 tons a month of material. Summer months 'produce' the least amount of recycled materials through the year while November through January 'produce' the most.

Now that Blue, our bag of recycled goods , has arrived at SP, what next?

Oops, we need to back up a little bit. Along with that bag of plastic and aluminum, we all use the blue tub (we'll call him Tubby, Blue's brother). Tubby is full of paper and cardboard. Tubby's contents ride in the same truck and then the same trailer as Blue. Tubby and Blue end up on the same floor at SP.

The contents of Blue and Tubby will be dumped onto a concrete floor, then scooped up onto one of many conveyor belts. During its first trip on a belt, sorters (human) will pull off and separate the cardboard and newspaper. You'd think metals or plastics would be the 'gold' in a recycling center, but not here. Newspaper is the thing SP wants the most. SP sells newspaper to a paper mill here in Georgia (pay attention and you'll see that most of what SP collects gets recycled and ends up somewhere here in Georgia). A single newspaper can be recycled up to five times.

Cardboard and paper are the easiest to sort and the most profitable. There are a couple of cardboard manufacturers in Georgia and your cardboard will end up with one of them.

What does a recycler not want? Glass. Glass is heavy, tears up machines, and cannot be sold easily. Since the US does not do much in the ways of reusing glass bottles like they do in Europe, most glass recycled in the US will be remelted or processed into a fiberglass product of some sort. I called a few recycling centers in a couple of states and found out most have to pay to get rid of glass. That's right. They can't sell it and have to pay to have it hauled away.

Those plastic grocery bags are not a good 'recyclable' item either. These things are considered 'dirty' plastic and have little to no value and may wind up in a landfill anyway.

Many folks toss items in the recycle tubs and bags and think all is well. When you place a garden hose or a wicker basket into a recycling bag, it will get sorted out and sent to the landfill. It's important for all of us to know what to recycle, but just as important for us to know what not to try and recycle through our trash provider.

What happens to the 'good' plastic (soda and water bottles) that we recycle? Much of it will be sold to a carpet maker in north Georgia where it will be turned into some type of floor covering.

The steel and aluminum will most likely go to a smelter here in Georgia for processing.

Do you throw non-recycling items into Tubby or Blue? If yes, you are hurting the process by making your 'clean' items 'dirty' and making the recycler's job more difficult (and more expensive).

Back to the subject of Dunwoody and trash. No matter who we choose our garbage will end up in a landfill in Georgia. One is up stream and one is downstream. No matter who we choose our recycled goods will end up at SP. There are not many players in the recycling game here in Atlanta. SP is the big boy on the block and with this economy and low materials costs don't look for another to come on line soon.

Did you know Dunwoody residents can pick up free mulch and compost from DeKalb Sanitation? DeKalb recycles all those yard trimmings and also fallen trees from throughout the county. Here's a great story by the DeKalb Master Gardener Association.

Quick Fact: DeKalb picks up 200-400 tons of yard debris a day.

DeKalb's landfill also produces electricity by harnessing landfill gas. (see DMGA link above)

When some in Dunwoody think of DeKalb County it is always not pleasant thoughts. Yet, in my opinion, the most pleasant thing about DeKalb is its sanitation department.

I ask that our city manager and council members contact Billy Malone or Charlie Gill at DeKalb Sanitation and request a tour of the transfer station, the landfill (including the mulch/compost area), and SP recycling. Go and see for yourself the top rate job they are doing.

Dunwoody Yes folks and our current council were hands-on for many of the decisions made in regards to service. Sanitation should be no exception. I'm asking King John, The General, Witty, Danny, Adrian, TomT, and Hizzoner to put on their dungarees and go see for themselves.

I expect DeKalb to raise fees for Dunwoody due to the recycling part. DeKalb contracts this out and will probably be paying more in the future for this service. However, even with an increase of say 25%, I strongly feel DeKalb Sanitation is our best option.

Residents are NOT interested in saving money in this area. I like to keep a hold on as much of my money as possible, but I also recognize a bargain when I see it.

Please voice your support at the upcoming public meeting on the sanitation issue. Encourage your council to meet with DeKalb Sanitation now to start negotiations for renewal.

Money is not everything. Dunwoody did not look for the least expensive pistols for its police department. We did not hire the least expensive city manager. Dunwoody did not buy the least expensive software for the police department. Warren did not buy the cheapest microphones for the council chambers (well, maybe he did at first, but he corrected that mistake).

Let's not look just at price when it comes to sanitation. DeKalb Sanitation provides a great service and its landfill operations are top notch.

Roll On DeKalb Trashman!