The Dec. 16 announcement by Santa Rosa County that recycling services would no longer be available led to a community outcry for the county to find resolution. The past agreement was for waste service providers to pick up customers’ recycling at curbside and transport it to Central Landfill for pick-up by Emerald Coast Utilities Authority to transport it to a recycle processing center. ECUA did not charge the county for transportation of the recyclables and the county did not receive any proceeds from the recyclables given to ECUA.
The problem arose when the major processing facility, IREP, went out of business in Oct. 2015. ECUA then began transporting the recyclables to Tarpon Paper Company in Robertsdale, Ala. The facility is smaller than IREP and could not process the amount of recyclables ECUA was delivering. ECUA then ended its agreement with Santa Rosa County, leaving them without a way to process the goods.
At the Santa Rosa County Commission Committee meeting Jan. 11, the county was presented with an alternative plan to work with Tarpon Paper Company. According to Ronald Hixson, environmental manager for the county, Tarpon Paper Company will accept between 75 and 100 tons per week of recyclables for processing. This represents approximately 40 – 50 percent of the total recyclables collected in the county. The remaining percentage of recyclables would be diverted to the Central Land Fill. The total fees from Tarpon would be $16.50 per ton. The fee for transporting the goods from Santa Rosa County to Robertsdale, Ala. would be an additional $18 per ton.
Ultimately the board of commissioners decided the Tarpon Paper plan was too cost prohibitive to consider, therefore 100% of recyclable materials will end up in the landfill. ECUA is building a processing plant in Escambia County that is scheduled to be ready for business in early July. The fees for those services remain to be seen along with what financial impact it will have on county residents to resume the service.