Horry County in talks to accept Charleston County recyclables

This file photo shows Terry Bessent (right) and Tommy Bell of the Horry County Solid Waste Authority collecting recyclables.
This file photo shows Terry Bessent (right) and Tommy Bell of the Horry County Solid Waste Authority collecting recyclables. The Sun News

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority is negotiating with Charleston County officials to bring about 72,000 tons of recyclables to the landfill throughout the next two years — a move that could net the authority more than $1.6 million.

Earlier this year, the authority was talking about having to increase garbage fees in Horry County because it is anticipating a $600,000 revenue decrease this year in recyclable sales revenue. That’s because market prices for recyclables like scrap metal, paper, cardboard, and more have dropped due to an over saturated market.

But this deal would work to the authority’s financial benefit as it anticipates to lock in a $135-per-ton minimum from Charleston County, netting an anticipated $70,000 per month, said Mike Bessant, assistant executive director at the Horry County Solid Waste Authority.

“We currently have the capacity to do it, We may have to extend some working hours, but we can definitely do it with the facility and equipment we have in place,” Bessant said.

Horry County’s recycling center can handle 25,000 tons of recyclables per eight-hour shift annually, Bessant said. Currently, it runs one eight-hour shift year-round and processes about 18,000 tons annually.

Horry County started talking with Charleston County in June about accepting 3,000 tons of recyclables per month for the next two years. If the counties enter into a contract, it will include caps on the amount of rejected material Horry County will accept per load.

The agreement would topple the current $17,000-per-month profit the authority makes on the landfill’s recyclables.

“Listening to this and listening to the explanations of everything that they’re trying to achieve, I have no problem doing it,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of the Horry County Council. “I think it’s all in the document that needs to be finalized. We need to be very careful that the document doesn’t open us up to any losses at all.”

The proposed contract has an out clause for either county to remove themselves from the agreement.

“Even with a 60-day out, what happens if we’re losing $1,000 a day?” Lazarus said.

Bessant said there is a clause in the proposed contract that states Charleston County will cover any financial losses incurred by Horry County.

Lazarus said he thinks it’s a good opportunity to help another county.

“I think it’s an opportunity to help Charleston County in a time that they might need us and there may be a day where we need Charleston for something too,” Lazarus said. “Here’s a good opportunity for us to do that, but I would certainly not advocate to do it at the detriment of our landfill...”

Bessant said it costs about $70 per ton to process the recyclables, so the profit should help off-set the county’s losses on its own recyclables and even make some money, which will be put in reserves.

“We think we’ll make some money off this and help off-set some revenues that we’ve lost over the last couple of years,” Bessant said. “This year we had to take some money out of one of our contingency accounts to help balance our budget. We think this will definitely help us not have to do that next year.”

Jason M. Rodriguez: 843-626-0301, @TSN_JRodriguez