The short-term future of recycling in Rome and Floyd County is one of dozens of issues being looked at by leaders as they try to cope with all the ramifications of the COVID-19 health emergency.
Mayor Bill Collins said that solid waste collection is something that has to continue, but problems such as recycling are going to have to get a hard look.
“It calls for lean times right now,” Collins said.
Looking at the program, which doesn’t bring in much revenue, Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord said they’re considering dropping it for now.
“We’re going to every single household, picking up product and delivering it to the center,” McCord said. “Then we’re hand sorting it, baling it and shipping it out. There’s no doubt in my mind that there is (contaminated) product getting in that facility, based on what I know on how long it (coronavirus) can live.”
Thinking of someone who may be sick at home, washing clothes and then recycling the jug of laundry detergent.
“You put it in on Tuesday and I’m bringing it into an environment to sort it to basically give it away because we basically have zero marketability right now,” McCord said.
The center is running as many as 30 inmate laborers a day from the Floyd County Prison, he said, and they could potentially get infected then take the virus back to other inmates leading to an serious outbreak.
While crews are going to extraordinary lengths to clean and sanitize the recycling center, Floyd County Public Works Director Michael Skeen said, they’re going to bring in additional crews over the weekend to further clean the shop.
“We’re going above and beyond the Georgia Department of Corrections guidelines to keep the inmates available,” Skeen said.
Apart from the virus itself, McCord said the community could take commingled recyclables to Atlanta and pay $95 a ton for disposal, or Conyers for $60 a ton.
“We can take it to our landfill for $30 a ton,” McCord said.
“This is a business decision that is going to have major philosophical implications, but that’s the reality and we’ve probably got a short amount of time to process this,” Rome City Manager Sammy Rich said.
“We’ll save more money taking it to the landfill,” McCord said “Is it the right thing to do? No. but under the circumstances we may need to have a moratorium.”
Collins agreed that it’s the right move under the current conditions.
A household electronics recycling collection that had been scheduled for this Saturday has been canceled.