The Atlanta-based recycling giant that will take over Hernando County's recycling center April 1 is interviewing county employees and a stack of outside applicants this week.
The County Commission unanimously approved privatizing the recycling program last week, a move utilities director Joe Stapf said will save the county more than $800,000 annually.
The transition already has begun as officials from SP Recycling Corp. are at the recycling center at the county landfill observing employees and their operation.
Ultimately, SP Recycling plans to hire four full-time workers and use up to five from a staffing pool as needed, a company official said. Nine county workers staff the facility now, two of whom might take advantage of new union contract language that would allow them to bump less-senior workers, human resource director Cheryl Marsden said.
SP Recycling Corp., founded 28 years ago, collects, recycles and purchases more than 1 million tons of old newspapers annually. SP Newsprint Co., LLC, is its parent company and is the nation's largest producer of 100 percent recycled newspaper.
The company is headquartered in Atlanta and operates newsprint mills in Dublin, Ga., and Newberg, Ore. The company has 28 divisions, eight of which are in Florida.
"We're looking forward to working with Hernando County,'' said J.J. Findlay, regional director of operations.
While the company is especially interested in collecting newsprint to supply its mill in Georgia, they also recycle the other items collected in Hernando County with a variety of specific markets for the glass, plastic and metal collected. For example, steel cans are largely recycled at a plant in Jacksonville and made into rebar.
Findlay said the company will be talking with other adjacent communities about possibly collecting recyclables at its new Hernando location. The company already has a number of recycling receptacles around the county at churches and nonprofits and those items also will go through the center.
Expansion of the operation as well as increased advertising to encourage recycling are planned, Findlay said.
Even just in Hernando County, the potential for collecting more recyclables is promising. There are an estimated 39,000 residents in the mandatory garbage collection area in Spring Hill who also have curbside recycling. A study showed that less than 20 percent of the homes were recycling.
Of the 119,000 tons of garbage generated in the county per year, just 6,000 tons are recycled and it is estimated that 47 percent of garbage generated could be recycled, said Stapf.
The recycling operation cost the county $1.36 million annually and the county was able to recover about $400,000 by selling recyclables.
Even with SP Recycling taking over the operation, Stapf figures the county will still lose about $7,000 each year, but that is far less than the losses it has had in recent years.
"It's a money-losing operation no matter how you cut it,'' he said.
The county will still be responsible for pulling the recyclables from the various recycling stations around the county and will continue to collect materials from county offices that can be recycled. The landfill also will have to continue to accept white goods such as large appliances.
Stapf said the company has several advantages that will allow it to do the recycling job more efficiently.
"As a private enterprise operation, they can be more timely, more flexible and design different programs,'' Stapf said. "If I were going to try to get anything done, I'd be so encumbered by the bureaucracy. It just doesn't let us do what we would need to.
"You've got to be nimble and we can't do that.''
Findlay also noted that SP Recycling has an advantage over the county in that it already has a guaranteed market for whatever newsprint it collects.
Stapf said Hernando isn't required to recycle any set percentage of its refuse, but with the prospect of landfills filling up with items that can be reused, taking the time to recycle just makes sense.
"We need to try to keep this stuff out of the landfills as much as we can,'' Stapf said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.