Mobile County is only two weeks away from opening a new $2.8 million, state-of-the-art recycling center in West Mobile, primarily funded with a grant through the Coastal Impact Assistance Project (CIAP), but also with $141,000 from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).
The 15,000-square-foot facility is located at 7450 Hitt Road, on property the county already owned. Mobile County Public Affairs Director Nancy Johnson said it was a big factor in determining where to locate the facility.
According to previous reports, the Mobile County Commission approved up to $15,000 for an engineering study of the property in 2012 to determine if improvements would be needed to handle the facility’s traffic.
As a result the study, voters approved a $300,000 resurfacing, repaving and rehabilitation project for a small section of Hitt Road as a part of the county’s 2012 Pay-As-You-Go bonding program. The project has not yet been completed, but should compliment the new recycling center.
“(We) work with a state mandate, passed down from the Environmental Protection Agency, requiring Mobile County to attempt a goal of 25 percent recycling of the community’s waste,” Johnson said. “The requirement is a part of the state’s solid waste regulations, and we have not reached this goal.”
Johnson said those mandates are aimed at reducing the county’s contribution to landfills, which is why this particular project qualified for the CIAP funding. Though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sponsors the CIAP program, its funding comes from royalties paid by oil and gas companies operating in federal waters and not from public taxes.
“There is also is also a demand from the public for recycling services in an effort to be more responsible stewards of our resources – both the natural resources we want to protect, and the throwaways that we want to repurpose and resell,” Johnson said.
Despite managing the grant and overseeing the construction of the recycling center, the repurposing and reselling of the products collected at the facility won’t be Mobile County’s concern.
The nonprofit organization Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast will manage the facility including its operation, employees, long-term maintenance and repairs. According to Johnson, Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast has also pledged to invest any revenue generated from the facility back into county-wide recycling programs. After its doors open Nov. 20, the county will not take on any cost associated with operating the facility.
Once operational, the Mobile County Recycling Center will accept glass, paper, plastic, aluminum, cardboard, electronics and non-alkaline batteries through residential drop offs. The materials will be baled at the center and then shipped off to be repurposed.
The facility – like the Mobile Metro Recycling Drop-Off Center on Government Street in midtown – will not provide residential pickups for recyclable materials. For now, the operational hours for drop offs are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6:40 p.m., according to Johnson.
“They will start with four to eight people and lots of volunteers,” she said. “They’ll grow as demand dictates.”
Though he hopes the new recycling center doesn’t take too much business away from the midtown facility, Bob Haskins of Keep Mobile Beautiful said having another option is going to be a huge asset for the county and the city of Mobile.
“We get a lot of people that come to the Government Street facility from (West Mobile). There’s going to be a lot of things turned in out there,” Haskins said. “It’s going to knock off a little bit of our business, but we just don’t know how much just yet. Ultimately, I do think it will help this facility immensely because we’re slammed here almost every day.”
Mobile’s population is estimated at just under 200,000 and the Mobile Metro Recycling Drop-Off Center is currently the only do-it-yourself recycling option available to the growing number of waste-conscious consumers.
According to data collected by Keep Mobile Beautiful, the Government Street facility received more than 3 million pounds of recyclable materials in 2013 including 1.6 million pounds of paper, 363,620 pounds of cardboard, 668,785 pounds of glass and 202,310 pounds of plastic.
According to Johnson, the county’s facility is expected to be able to handle more waste than the county can produce currently because of its state-of-art machinery. When asked about capacity, she said, “there’s no end number.”
Haskins, who assisted with planning the project, said he’s hopeful the balance between the two facilities will be “just the right amount.”
In addition to its processing ability, the recycling center will also provide an on-site classroom for educational opportunities related to recycling – a part of the facility Haskins said he and the staff at Keep Mobile Beautiful are planning to utilize as well.
“We have an education specialist and we’re hoping we’ll be able to do a few recycling lessons there,” Haskins said. “We’ve been helping since the very beginning when this was all just drawings on a piece of paper. I think it’s a win-win for both of us and Goodwill Easter Seals.”
The Mobile County Commission will host a ribbon cutting at the facility Nov. 20 and material will be accepted immediately.