Local News

Garbage haulers feel dumped on by recycling law

Posted October 12, 2009 7:32 p.m. EDT
Updated October 12, 2009 7:49 p.m. EDT

— Sanitation company operators say they feel a new state law banning plastic bottles from landfills unfairly targets them for punishment.

The plastic ban took effect this month, and Cumberland County can impose up to a $500 fine on anyone dumping plastic bottles in the local landfill, plus another $100 fine if landfill workers have to remove the materials.

William Skipper, the owner of All American Sanitation, said he still finds quite a bit of plastic in the trash of his 1,000 Cumberland County customers. He's already sent his customers warning letters to keep plastic bottles out of their garbage.

"We're going to have to put on an extra truck (and an) extra crew to run the areas just to pick up the recyclables. It's going to cost us all the way around," Skipper said.

All American hasn't raised its collection fees yet, but Skipper said it's a possibility, especially if he faces fines for dumping his customers' plastic bottles.

"If they're going to fine us, we can't afford the fines," he said.

County Solid Waste Manager Bobby Howard said he is giving waste haulers a month to adjust to the new law, and he said nobody will be fined for a couple of stray bottles.

"We're not out here to try to make people pay a $600 fine. We will not be doing that," Howard said. "However, if they dump a truck and it's loaded down with plastic, I'm going to ask them to get it back up."

State environmental regulators could impose a fine of up to $15,000 on landfills for violations like having banned materials. Officials with the state Division of Waste Management have said nobody would be fined that much for putting plastic bottles in landfills, but Howard said he could face fines if state agents find substantial amounts of plastic.

Howard said he’s already been fined $200 for having a single tire in the landfill. Like plastic bottles, tires are banned from landfills statewide.

“Infractions with the state are very high, and that’s because they don’t want you to do it again,” Howard said.

State fines would not be levied against private citizens who toss out plastic bottles, officials said.

Howard said the state is trying to educate the public about the new law to increase compliance with the bottle ban.

The city of Fayetteville has a curbside recycling program for plastic and other materials. For those who live outside the city, Cumberland County has 17 sites for residents to drop off recyclables.