Richland residents adjust to new recycling measures

dhinshaw@thestate.com February 26, 2013 

Nearly 1,300 Richland County residents called with questions and complaints during the first two weeks of changes to garbage and recycling service.

Administrator Tony McDonald said while he’s gotten positive feedback at community meetings, about one-third of the calls could be considered complaints about the new system, which affects just part of unincorporated Richland County.

Some 19,000 customers are now required to put leaves, limbs and other yard waste into bags or containers for pick-up. Those same customers were given full-sized recycling rollcarts that are emptied every other week. Garbage is still collected weekly and the cost of service did not change.

By 2015, the changes will be phased in to all parts of unincorporated Richland County, officials have said.

In Hopkins, across-the-street neighbors Fancy Crayton and Bobby Lockhart said they like the new routine: It’s neater and more convenient.

Crayton said she especially appreciates the lid on the recycling rollcart. Dogs used to get into her old recycling bin, she said, or the wind would blow the stuff into the street.

“It really cuts down on the litter,” she said.

Because the rollcarts are so much bigger, she can recycle more, too. “Before, I was just doing plastic recycling. Now I can do cardboard and different kinds of paper products.”

When it comes to the yard waste, though, Crayton has heard people fretting about the expense of bags.

Sure enough, she went to a discount store to buy bags, but they are small and thin. She expects they’ll tear.

“You have to get bigger ones, and you have to get thicker ones,” which will cost more, she said.

Lockhart, a gardener, said he has always bagged his leaves and other yard trimmings because it’s just neater. He’s glad other people will be bagging their yard waste now, too.

“A lot of people just rake theirs up, and once the guys pick it up, you still have debris down,” Lockhart said. “When you have high winds, it blows it everywhere.”

David Williams, who lives in a suburban community off Trotter Road, anticipates hassles in the spring when he trims his azaleas and the fall when he rakes leaves.

He’ll either have to load his pick-up with yard debris for trips to the county dump several times a year or buy more heavy-duty garbage cans – like the one he just got for $26 – to keep his yard cleaned up.

“It hasn’t really hit yet,” Williams said. “They implemented this just after all the leaves were gone in the fall.”

McDonald, the county administrator, said the 1,279 calls to the ombudsman’s office between Feb. 4 and Feb. 15 is “a relatively large number” but “not surprising” given the magnitude of changes.

McDonald said the county will send additional information to affected residents, in the north-central part of the county and just southeast of Columbia, to “more clearly explain the changes.” And as the new policies expand in coming years, he said, the county will do a better job of making sure residents know what’s coming.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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