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story.lead_photo.caption The Abilities Unlimited Recycle Center just off W. University Street in Magnolia.

Columbia County’s solid waste recycling program is set to begin again in the coming months.

Announced this week by County Judge Larry Atkinson, the program was set to possibly begin sooner, but a hiccup, due to a price increase, occurred in the purchasing of new equipment needed to restart the program. Now, though, a secondary supplier has been used and new industrial sorter is on its way to Abilities Unlimited Recycle Center in Magnolia. The price of the equipment is roughly $46,000.

“The company that we had gotten the quote from went up on us,” said Atkinson. “They said it had to do with steel prices. So, we’re going with the DeHart company [sorter] that’s close to our previous number.”

DeHart Recycling Equipment is based in St. Louis and produces large, industrial scale balers, shredders and conveyors. The sorter expected for Columbia County is roughly 30 inches wide, 20 feet long, and can handle large loads of unseparated recycle pickup to flow into Abilities’ facility at a much quicker rate than before. The machine is almost identical, Atkinson stated, to the original machine approved for order by the Quorum Court in June. When the new equipment is installed, the job of sorting for the facility’s workers will, in theory, be far less labor intensive and time consuming.

County recycling pickup was suspended indefinitely in May after eight years of continuous collection after Abilities’ center became overwhelmed with mass amounts of garbage mixed in with recyclable paper, plastic, and cans. It was estimated in the spring by facility supervisor Richard Metzelaars that up to 70 percent of the weekly intake was non-reusable.

“The guys were getting too overworked,” he said. “We just couldn’t keep up with all of the trash coming in.”

Since May, the nonprofit’s W. University Street-area recycle center has still accepted drop-off recyclables and continued its cardboard pickup rounds, but major Waste Corporation of Arkansas (WCA) – the county’s contracted solid waste provider – dropoffs were a thing of the past.

But now, with the official purchase of new sorting equipment by the county and its recently inked contract with Abilities to aid in the program, the center can better handle its weekly recycle intake. The equipment is expected to take at least eight weeks to arrive in Magnolia and then Abilities workers will need extra time to train with and use the new sorter in the testing phase. Metzelaars, though, said the program could be running again by year’s end.

“I’d say, maybe December,” he added.

Even with the new equipment, recycle pickup still needs to be eradicated of its unusable consents to make the sorting process flow as fast as possible. The new plan for separation involves conveyor apparatus taking on a recycle load and travelling along as workers pick out the usable items while the leftover items fall at the belt’s end into a garbage collector.

The WCA trucks will still dump at the same place, the center’s front dock, but now, the giant mounds of paper and plastic will be scooped up with a forklift attachment, dumped into the sorter’s hopper, and dropped onto the conveyor for sorting. The less trash that is mixed in, the faster the sorting will go.

In the past Abilities has issued a recycling guide for collections to be as lean and reusable as possible. The county also had guides available and were passed out when a new, blue recycle bin was issued.

In the guide, only aluminum and tin cans, plastic water and soda bottles, non wax-coated cardboard and boxes, and regular papers (envelopes, letter, junk mail newspapers, magazines, catalogs, telephone books) can be recycled at the Magnolia Abilities Recycle Center.

Although the county’s recycle pickup has been announced as restarting, an official calendar date has not yet been issued. Morte details on the matter will be reported as they are announced.

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