Due to Hurricane Michael, Bay County Solid Waste has temporarily suspended its recycling drop-off program until further notice because of potential bin contamination and difficulty finding a vendor to take the materials. The Bay County Waste-to-Energy Facility, which turns trash into electricity, has resumed operation.
Prior to the storm, Bay County had eight locations at which the public could drop off recyclable materials, including plastics, cardboard, newspapers, and aluminum in the unincorporated areas throughout the county. Most of the bins were removed from those locations prior to the storm.
“We anticipated that it would be bad, and we cannot set the bins back up at the sites because they will become dumpsters for waste,” Bay County Solid Waste Superintendent Glenn Ogborn said, adding that once the bins are “contaminated” by non-recyclable materials they cannot be recycled. He said that the bins near Lynn Haven were removed at the city’s request Thursday because of continued contamination and they had “become magnets for mountains of garbage.”
Even when the amount of debris and trash on the streets subsides, Ogborn said, a vendor to take the materials may be difficult to obtain. Before the storm, Bay County paid a local vendor $42.50 per ton to take cardboard, paper and plastics, but the company’s recycling operation was badly damaged in the storm, and it’s unclear whether they will continue service.
“Finding another vendor to take our materials may be difficult,” Ogborn said. “When we do open the sites back up we may only be able to provide limited services.”
Bay County residents who wish to recycle can take solace in the relaunching of the Waste-to-Energy Facility. The facility burns trash and creates energy – under normal circumstances enough to power 5,500 homes annually. The process is recognized by the state as a renewable resource, and Bay County receives recycling credits for each megawatt of energy produced at the facility. You don't have to do anything to recycle; all household waste is taken to the incinerator.
Hurricane Michael badly damaged the facility, tearing away siding, roofing and insulation, causing electrical conduit failure that prohibited operation of certain subsystems of the plant and necessitated significant rewiring, crushed the maintenance building, and more.
The current estimate of the damages is in the neighborhood of $4 million, incinerator-operator Engen, LLC owner Joe Tannehill Jr., said.
“We’re trying really hard to dot our ‘I’s’ and cross our ‘T’s’ to do everything the way the county needs us to do it in the hopes that FEMA will reimburse the county for the damage,” Tannehill said.
The facility also features a metals recovery system that extracts ferrous and non-ferrous metals for recycling, though that component of the system is not expected to be operable for at least another month.