CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Recycling electronics cost Horry County residents around $750,000 each year.
Recycling the items are required by a 2010 South Carolina law.
“The county chose to recycle them because they didn’t want them in the woods so you gotta have a place to get rid of them,” explained Mike Bessant, director of operations at the Horry County Solid Waste Authority.
The Horry County Solid Waste Authority took over the responsibility of disposing of electronics for the county and municipalities eight years ago.
The electronics are collected at recycling centers and collection days and then stacked, wrapped and shipped away.
Bessant said the county is now shipping around 18 tons of electronics each week to a recycling company. The weekly recycling costs around $13,000.
South Carolina outlawed throwing the materials in landfills in 2010 to protect human health and the environment from the potentially dangerous materials like lead and mercury.
The law now also mandates electronic manufacturers to pay a registration fee with the state each year and to have a recovery program to ensure a certain percentage of the items sold are also recycled.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said it collects around $100,000 from manufacturers each year. That pool of money is distributed to local governments to help offset the cost of recycling.
However, Bessant said, Horry County won’t receive that help for much longer.
The state law has a sunset clause on December 21, 2021 that essentially nulls every part of the law except banning dumping electronics in landfills.
“What that sunset clause says is the little bit of support that the county and municipalities are getting from the electronic and manufactures of these products will go away,” Bessant explained. “So that will cause the cost to go up even higher.”
Bessant said the county received a $5,000 grant from the state in 2017 to help with the recycling. He isn’t sure how much more the county will be responsible for paying, but that additional cost will eventually fall on residents.
“The county will have to pay more money in order to do that and how they would do that is either through an increase in tax millage or municipalities through your water bill,” Bessant said.
In order to prevent increasing residents’ bills, county leaders are beginning to work on a solution now.
Solid Waste Authority Executive Director Danny Knight spoke to county council members at an Infrastructure and Regulation Committee meeting earlier this month.
Knight said he was in talks with the Association of Counties to endorse a bill that would add a disposable fee on electronics.
Currently, when consumers buy appliances and tires they pay a few extra dollars known as a ‘disposable fee’ that helps offset the cost of recycling the material. Electronic purchases currently do not have a similar fee.
“We are trying to get the Association of Counties to endorse this concept through their legislative activities,” Knight said at the meeting. “I think the rest of the counties are in the same situation it’s costing them.”
Bessant said the county will continue to recycle the materials but figuring out how to pay for it is something that needs to be worked out.
“We think it’s the right thing to do, it saves landfill space. It’s just the right thing to do and we want to see them continue,” Bessant said. “We don’t ever want to see them go back in the landfill again.”