LIVING GREEN for May 16, 2103

For Weekly SurgeMay 14, 2013 

The sorry state of recycling in the Palmetto State

Although I have said it before, I will say it again: recycling in South Carolina is something you have to want to do. We are lazy recyclers in South Carolina and maybe it has to do with the laidback environment. Recycling is not mandatory nor are there plans for it to be. However, I am a little proud of how far we have come with recycling in the Palmetto State. It’s better than nothing.

While I have recycled since I was a little girl living in Northern Virginia, the recycling efforts in South Carolina shocked me. They were so relaxed, almost non-existent and you had to hunt to find a recycling center. You didn’t get a bin when you got your trash can? What? It’s like a hidden secret when it comes to recycling and only government can make garbage difficult.

How often have I heard, “South Carolina doesn’t recycle?” I’ve heard it way too many times, but it just isn’t true. It’s really quite simple - if you know where to go and what to do. I’m a sucker for easy and convenient, especially since I have two small children and live out in the country. It’s really a painful chore to load up all our trash and recycling and haul down the road a few miles. I don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t have a pick-up truck. Oh yeah, we’d have a garbage juice smelling Nissan.

There are 24 recycling centers in Horry County and you really need to visit one if you haven’t already. Well, if you can find one first. Recently, the Horry County Solid Waste Authority released an incentive program to encourage private trash haulers, such as Waste Management and Waste Industries to offer recycling. Basically, when they start bringing in more recycling, then they get a discount on their landfill tipping fees. Simple enough. Hopefully, this incentive will be the boost that these haulers need in order to provide more recycling services across the county. We sure do need it. So I really do hope more curbside recycling services will birth from the incentive program.

The progression of recycling in South Carolina has grown tremendously since 2008, when it was low at 24 percent. The recycling rate has been measured by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling since 2004, when it was 22 percent. The rate grew to 31 percent in 2007, then plummeted to 24 percent. The reporting of these numbers may or may not be consistent because it depends tremendously on the efforts of the local governments to complete surveys of disposal and recycling tonnages. Some years, lots of surveys are turned in and other years, some surveys are not.  

According to recently released data, for fiscal year 2012, South Carolina’s recycling rate was 29.5 percent, which increased 8 percent from the previous year. According to DHEC, 1.2 tons of material was recycled and paper was at the top of list with 395,000 tons. Unfortunately, 2.9 tons of material was landfilled, with 58 percent imported into South Carolina from North Carolina.

South Carolina has a goal to reach a 40 percent recycling rate by 2020 with the potential to increase organic and food waste recycling and increase construction and demolition recycling. This is a fair and possibly achievable goal, as long as we continue to recycle more.   

Another hidden secret is the free resources available from DHEC. The DHEC Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling offers free technical and marketing assistance, grant funding, education and outreach. DHEC also offers the Smart Business program, the Green Hospitality program, Action for a Cleaner Tomorrow and Recycling on the Go.

The Green Hospitality Program is part of the Green Hospitality Alliance and certifies restaurants and hotels that have gone green based on several criteria. The criteria of certification is based on environmental awareness, environmentally preferred purchasing, waste reduction and recycling, energy efficiency, water efficiency, air quality, green cleaning, green meetings and catering, sustainable food, and other green practices. In the Myrtle Beach area, the certified green restaurants include California Dreaming, Carolina Roadhouse, Drunken Jack’s Restaurant and Lounge, Fiesta del Burro Loco, Gulf Stream Cafe, New York Prime, and The Parsons Table. The seven local certified green hotels include Best Western Plus, Embassy Suites at Kingston Plantation, Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort, Marriott’s OceanWatch Villas at Grand Dunes, Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel, Wyndham Ocean Boulevard Resort, and Wyndham Seawatch Plantation. There are hundreds of hotels in Myrtle Beach and only seven are considered to be certified green? I think there should be way more than that! The program is free and all it takes is an online application. It couldn’t get any simpler than that.

You can learn more at www.scdhec.gov/environment/lwm/recycle.

Jennifer Sellers is the sustainability coordinator at Coastal Carolina University and offers her eco-views at her blog, mygreenglasses.com. Contact her at jen@mygreenglasses.com.

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