Prattville, Alabama, is on a path to improve recycling. The city is revamping its recycling program with a new partnership with RePower South (RPS), Montgomery, Alabama, with hopes to capture and divert more material from landfill and make recycling easier for residents and businesses.
Before, Prattville, along with other cities in Autauga County, provided large recycling bins throughout the city and county. Inmates from the Alabama Department of Corrections then sorted the material from the bins and the city’s recycling drop-off center. The service was free to the city.
“The DOC came to us about two months ago and said we’re shutting the program down,” says Dale Gandy, public works director. “The program was not feasible anymore. When the DOC said we’re shutting the program down, it was perfect timing.”
Within the last year, Prattville has been looking at ways to improve its recycling program. The city, which owns and operates its own sanitation department, began a curbside pickup program for mixed paper and cardboard about a year ago. The city sells the paper collected through the program, along with metals collected at the drop-off center, to Mount Scrap Material Co., Montgomery. Gandy says the city makes between $60 and $90 per ton for the recycled cardboard and paper. Through the new partnership, residents will be able to commingle waste and recyclables in one bin, which will be collected and transported by the sanitation department to RPS for processing.
“A year ago, we started talking about how to improve the recycling program,” Gandy says. “Cardboard, paper and metals, we could collect and make a profit. We also started looking at RePower South six months ago.”
August, the city signed a three-year contract with RPS, which processes municipal solid waste (MSW), recovering recyclables, to produce a fuel feedstock. RPS employs a variety of technology at the facility, including disc screens and infrared sorters, to recover and sort polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), steel, aluminum and mixed paper from the waste stream before it’s sent to landfill.
The new program will reach the city’s 35,000 residents as opposed to the 12,000 households and businesses that were participating in the curbside and drop-off program.
"We have a large portion of our community that is committed to recycling. The partnership with RePower South makes recycling easier for our citizens and enables 100 percent community participation,” says Mayor Bill Gillespie Jr.
Gandy adds, “The city owns and operates the sanitation department. We weren’t under any contractual obligation with an outside entity, which allowed us to be able to do this.”
The city also has modified the recycling bins across town to accept only mixed paper and cardboard and plans to roll out more of the collection bins across the city in the future.
Alabama’s recycling rate is about 16 percent, according to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, which is lower than the national average of 34 percent. The state is also falling behind on organics collections and composting, with no large-scale operations to handle food and yard waste and other compostable materials, according to an online report by AL.com.
Prattville and Hunstville, one of Alabama's largest cities, are among the cities revamping recycling programs to capture more landfill-bound material and increase recycling rates. Hunstville has launched a new curbside recycling program called Recycling Alliance of North Alabama (RANA), which provides residents with larger bins and reaches more cities and counties in the state.
“We’ve changed how we do things to help make recycling better for us and better for the citizens,” Gandy says. “We may be doing it a whole different way in a year from now.”