HCSWA Charleston Recycling Review

By Paul Gable

The HCSWA recycling processing of Charleston County trash is now three months old and the results are not what were projected, at least yet.

Through the process to get Horry County Council approval of a contract between the Horry County Solid Waste Authority and Charleston County to allow the HCSWA to process Charleston County recyclables, a projected profit from the contract of $1 million per year for the HCSWA was often repeated.

According to numbers presented by HCSWA officials to the Horry County Infrastructure and Regulation Committee, through the first three months that the authority has processed Charleston County recyclables, the HCSWA material recovery facility (MRF) operations have lost approximately $133,000.

It’s been 50 years since I took Calculus I, but a $133,000 loss in the first quarter of operations did not then, and does not now, project out to a $1 million profit at the end of the year.

HCSWA executive director Danny Knight spoke of the necessity to replace three belts and 30 rollers in the recycling equipment. Knight said the maintenance replacement of this equipment was overdue and now became necessary because of the increased load of recyclables being processed at the MRF.

The HCSWA also obtained a new, larger front end loader for the MRF because of the increased material.

Those costs appear to be amortized over the life of the equipment so no large, upfront cost is included in the above numbers.

The excess cost problem appears to be in the amount of residuals being experienced.

According to HCSWA numbers, a total of 12,080 tons of recyclables have been brought to the MRF for processing (a combination of Horry County and Charleston County) in the three months of the contract.

Of that total, 8,521 tons have been sold. This leaves 3,559 tons (29% of the total) of unsold, residual recyclables. The contract projected 14.5% residuals.

A stipulation put on the HCSWA by Horry County Council was that residual waste attributable to Charleston County operations going to the HCSWA landfill would be offset by an equal amount of construction and demolition (C&D) waste shipped from the HCSWA to an out of county landfill.

In other words, no excess airspace would be used at the HCSWA landfill because of the Charleston County recycling operations.

According to HCSWA numbers, 35 tons of waste were shipped out in September, 300 tons in October. This accounts for slightly less than 10% of the residual amount over the course of the three month period the Charleston County recycling operations have been in effect.

I won’t bore you with any more numbers. Suffice it to say, the unsold amount of recyclables is at least twice the initially projected amount, the price being received from sales of recyclables is lower than projected and the amount going out of the county is lower than ordered.

Maybe all these things will get worked out in the next three month period. For right now, however, the HCSWA is losing money on the Charleston County recyclable operations and appears to be using up more airspace than anticipated at its Hwy 90 landfill.


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