In terms of volume, Tri-County Recycling has never been better. For its second consecutive year, the center collected, processed and sold over 1 million pounds of recyclable items that would otherwise be buried in an area landfill. Unfortunately, this success has been tempered by the fact that in today's ongoing economic downturn, revenue streams that support the center's operations have decreased to the extent that its future operation is in question.
Established in 1997 through a mutual agreement of the county and city governments in Fulton, Izard and Sharp counties, the center operates as a free-standing entity with varied levels of support from county governments, some cities, grant proceeds and the sale of recycled materials. Because of the slow economy, most recycling markets are at or near record lows. County budgets are stretched as well and the recycling center's income has been substantially reduced as a result of these events. "Our income is down to a critical level," said Morris Street, board chairman for the center.
Over one-half of the material Tri-County takes in is cardboard -- 510,825 pounds in 2002 alone. The center has provided storage bins for cardboard and pickup to businesses in the three-county area at no direct cost to the businesses it serves. Businesses save money in trash fees because cardboard can be taken out of their waste stream. Unfortunately, the market for recycled cardboard has dropped from over $100 per ton in the summer of 2002 to $55 in January 2003, and may continue to fall before market demand bring prices up.
In an effort to help recoup lost revenue, the Fulton, Izard and Sharp county judges are asking businesses who benefit from this cardboard pickup service to help continue the service by providing financial assistance. Letters are being delivered this month. "We need help from those we serve if we are to continue service at its present level," Street said.
A reduction or elimination of recycling services would likely result in increases in littering, illegal dumping and illegal burning. "Certainly, litter and increased fire hazards are not beneficial to our three counties and their citizens," said Carol Thompson, board secretary. "This is especially true when compared to the positive impact recycling has on the natural environment. Recycling may be the single most effective thing individuals can do to positively impact their environment."
For more information about the Tri-County Recycling Center call Larry at 870-994-3020 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.