‘Reuse’ and ‘recycle’ are words center lives by

Published 8:24 am Friday, February 6, 2015

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye Workers at the Carter County Recycling Center use a piece of heavy equipment to drop cardboard onto a conveyor belt. The cardboard then moves up the belt into the compactor where it is then baled.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Workers at the Carter County Recycling Center use a piece of heavy equipment to drop cardboard onto a conveyor belt. The cardboard then moves up the belt into the compactor where it is then baled.

Nestled away in an old block building off of Cherokee Park Road is a county service many residents might not know about. And it’s one county service that could save them money.
The Carter County Recycling Center takes a wide variety of materials that can be recycled — including cardboard, mixed paper, newspaper, plastics 1 and 2, used motor oil, used hydraulic oil, used power steering fluid, aluminum, tin cans and used cooking oil.
Benny Lyons, manager of the recycling center and the county landfill, is serious about recycling. He even uses items brought in to the center to help it operate.
“The motor oil that people bring in, we burn it right here,” Lyons said as he pointed to a large clean burn heating system. “That is how we heat our building. We bought that with a grant.”
As you look around the center, it is easy to spot another way Lyons puts recycling to work. The center divides recyclables up in the storage area. Separating each section are walls constructed of bales of old rubber tires.
“We save money by not having to pay to dispose of the tires, plus we’re saving money by not having to buy blocks to build the walls,” Lyons said.
Plus, he said, with the heavy equipment moving things around, a block wall could be damaged.
“The tires are a lot more forgiving than blocks would be,” Lyons said. “And if a bale breaks, all we have to do is put it back in the compactor and redo it.”
Tires are not the only things baled at the recycling center. On any given day, visitors will see bales of plastics, cardboard or paper stacked in storage.
“We bale everything here because it just makes it easier to transport,” Lyons said. “We’re not close to the recycling plants so we can’t just take it right over there. We have to store it for a while until we get enough for a load.”
The center collects the items and then sells it to companies who recycle those items. This creates additional revenue for the solid waste and recycling programs, Lyons said. By bringing in these additional funds, the recycling center helps to ease the burden on the taxpayers to fund the solid waste program.
Plus, Lyons said, citizens who take advantage of the recycling center can double their savings.
“You can recycle it for free. It doesn’t cost you a penny to bring it down here,” he said. “You have to pay to throw it away.”
The recycling program helps the county in another way. Every item that is recycled is another item that is not being thrown into the county landfill, Lyons said, adding this helps to extend the life of the county’s landfill and will enable the county to keep the current landfill open longer.
Last year, Carter County recycled an estimated 37 percent of it’s solid waste, Lyons said, adding the state wants counties to recycle at least 25 percent of their solid waste.
To help make the recycling program successful, the center placed cardboard collection bins at all of the schools in the city and county.
“We’ve got recycling bins in every classroom in the city and county schools,” Lyons said. “That brings in a tremendous amount of paper.”
Lyons became the manager for the landfill and recycling center about five years ago. In that time, he said he has been able to work to improve the program by making better use of funding and searching for grants wherever he can find them. Since taking over, Lyons said he’s also seen a difference in his home life as well.
“Before I took this job I didn’t really think about recycling much, but now my family recycles everything we can,” he said. “My son will call me out on it if he sees me throw something away that can be recycled.”
The Carter County Recycling Center is located at 411 Cherokee Park Road and is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. There are dumpsters located outside the building so residents may drop off their recyclable goods after hours.
Recyclables are also accepted at the Carter County Landfill, located at 169 Landfill Road, during business hours on Monday-Friday from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until Noon. The Roan Mountain Convenience Center, 102 Old Rock Quarry Road, Roan Mountain, also serves as a collection site for recyclable materials. It is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox