County gets landfill/recycling info from Horry County

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

Darlington County Council convened a special work session on December 7 to receive information from the Horry County Solid Waste Authority about how that agency handles their waste collection, disposal, and recycling operations.

Darlington County administrator Terence Arrington said he and Environmental Services staffers had recently visited several landfill facilities around the state to get an idea of what other counties are doing, with an eye toward developing a master plan for the future of Environmental Services and the county landfill.

Guest speaker Michael Bessant, assistant executive director for Horry County Solid Waste Authority, gave council a rundown of HCSWA’s operations.

Horry County currently has five permitted landfill areas: two for municipal solid waste (MSW), two for construction and demolition debris (C&D), and one “piggy back” area that hosts any necessary overflow. They also own three additional sites reserved to hold natural disaster debris. Though these sites are leased out for farming, they can be reclaimed in the event of an emergency with 72 hours notice.

Michael Bessant, assistant executive director for Horry County Solid Waste Authority.			    Photo by Samantha Lyles

Michael Bessant, assistant executive director for Horry County Solid Waste Authority. Photo by Samantha Lyles

In fiscal year 2015, HCSWA took in 239,530 tons of MSW and 76,014 tons of C&D. Also they took in 39,611 tons of yard and wood waste and recycled over 11,000 tons of C&D – along with 24,602 tons of other recyclables (including concrete, shingles, and tire tonnage). Altogether, the agency processed nearly 400,000 tons of material in one year, made more remarkable by how they pay for it all.

“We live off our tipping fees, but we sell everything we possibly can,” said Bessant, explaining that his agency’s $10 million annual budget is funded mainly by tipping fees and sales of reclaimed recyclables.

Furthering this self-sustained method of operation, the HCSWA Board of Directors does not buy anything the agency must finance. Bessant said this policy applies to everything from buildings to equipment, noting that when HCSWA buys a new truck, they begin depreciation immediately and start saving money for that vehicle’s eventual replacement.

At Horry County’s MRF (Material Recycling Facility), two full-time employees run a track hoe and a front loader to haul in commingled recyclables, and they employ eight temp workers (for flexibility) on a picking line to remove dirt and foreign items (everything from dead animals to guns) and sort out usable recyclables.

The agency reclaims as much material as possible, converting yard waste to compost (sold for $20 per ton, this material sells as fast as they can make it), land-clearing debris is converted to mulch (sold at $20 per ton), and clean wood is converted to biomass boiler fuel, which brings in $14 per ton in tipping fees. Additionally, dumped concrete is reused for road bed material, and roofing shingles are converted to asphalt for use by the county’s highway crews.

Baled materials include cardboard, aluminum cans, PET plastic, and newspapers. These commodities are advertised on Horry County’s website and sold to the highest bidder, guaranteeing the county gets top market price for these items.

The Horry County MRF was built for $12 million in 2008 after the previous facility burned. Due to demand for glass recycling, HCSWA added an $80,000 glass grinding machine that reduces glass bottles to sand or 3/8 inch bits – sizes that make the glass easier to sell for use as drain beds or pipe bases.
HCSWA also operates 24 recycling convenience centers around Horry County, collecting items ranging from waste oil to tires to electronics. Another money maker: at their landfill, HCSWA has installed 73 methane gas wells, selling energy to Santee Cooper from this gas skid that powers 2,000 homes.

Bessant says Horry County’s recycling rate of over 38-percent is the result of an extensive public information program focusing on schools and youth, utilizing two full-time employees who specialize in recycling education. The agency spends about $300,000 per year on education programs and advertising.
He confirmed to council that HCSWA does operate by a master plan (Darlington County currently does not have such a plan for Environmental Services) and they update this plan every three years. Bessant offered to provide tours, information, and counsel to any Darlington County Council members who want to learn more about his agency.

Arrington followed Bessant’s presentation by noting that while Darlington County Environmental Services cannot conduct operations on the same scale as Horry County, there is an opportunity to generate some much-needed extra revenue by emulating some of their programs.

Author: Duane Childers

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