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Boom expected in recycling business // Laws mandating reuse of waste

In a black mound at the county landfill, old tires are piling up: morethan 30,000 of them. Getting rid of them is going to cost Citrus County a lot of money.

New state rules that prohibit dumping whole tires in landfills (shredded tires are allowed) are among the many changes in the trash removal business.

Experts say Florida can expect a tremendous increase in the recycling and garbage processing businesses in the 1990s as the state tries to solve its massive solid waste problems.

Jim Barker, who is in charge of Citrus County's solid waste and recycling programs, said trade shows and seminars he attends are full of new products and companies claiming to have solved some of those problems.

"There are a lot of things going on right now," he said. Industry is responding to the new regulations and to the new supplies of recyclable goods, such as yard debris, old appliances, newsprint, aluminum, office paper, motor oil and hazardous wastes. The state has placed new regulations on disposal of each of these items, and Barker is going to have to find some way to get rid of them.

The state is requiring counties to reduce by 30 percent the amount of trash going into their landfills by 1994.

Barker is considering dozens of programs and options to meet the new state requirements: composters, degradable trash bags, curbside recycling, mulchers and, of course, shredders to chew up the 2,600 tires that are dropped off at the Citrus dump each month.

"When the whole state of Florida is recycling," Barker said, "There's going to be a whole lot of recycled material available."

The market for such materials as newsprint, glass, aluminum and plastic is going to sag, said Sandy Messina, owner of Citrus Recycling Inc. on State Road 44 west of Inverness.

"The more you flood the market with materials, the lower prices become," she said.

That's especially true for newsprint, she said. The market has been glutted for some time because there is so much newsprint available and few places that can process it.

For other recyclables, such as aluminum, the market is steadier.

But there are still price fluctuations.

"A couple of months ago aluminum cans were 60 cents a pound," for people who brought them to the recycling center. Now, Messina said, she's paying just 29 cents a pound.

The recycling business should hold steady in the coming years, "but I wouldn't say it's a good business to get in right now."

Without established outlets for selling the recyclables, survival could be tough, she said.

Another barrier to the new solid waste businesses is the cost of some of the technology, Barker said.

That's the problem with tires - their rubber and steel construction makes any machine that can chew them up very expensive. The county has hired a company to shred its tires for about 50 cents each.

The one-year contract calls for Ashland Industries of Yemassee, S.C., to shred the county's tire stockpile every four months. Tires have to be cut into at least eight pieces, according to the state requirements, because they take up so much space in landfills otherwise, and whole tires collect water and breed mosquitos.

Tire cutting "is a business that's having its day," said Ashland's Frank Sires. Though there isn't much of a market for the rubber, Sires said, the new laws in Florida and other states have increased the demand for tire shredders.

That has given rise to a lot of would-be tire shredding companies, he said. "There's a lot of people looking at it and trying to get into it," he said.

"But they don't understand, it's very expensive." The tire-cutters must be able to cut through rubber and the steel belts inside modern tires. The machine Sires will bring to Citrus County costs about $120,000, he said.

"It's a big man's game."

The long-range benefits of saving landfill space make the shredding worthwhile, Barker said, adding that principle drives much of the county's new recycling efforts.

He calls it "cost avoidance" - if the county spends money now to keep things out of the landfill, it can delay by years the multimillion-dollar cost of a new landfill.

Residential recycling efforts also will gain momentum this year in Citrus County. Crystal River this month started a three-month trial of a citywide recycling program. Residents only are participating, and they are expected to separate newspapers, aluminum cans and glass bottles and leave them for curbside pickup.

In Inverness, Red Wing Disposal has received a contract with the county to conduct a trial recycling program in the Highlands area south of town. Red Wing will receive $2.60 a month for each of the 2,600 homes to participate in the program.

A grant from the state will help pay for the trial program in Inverness, which will ask residents to separate recyclables from their normal trash and set them out for pickup once a week.

The success of the program, Barker said, depends on participation by residents. "People are aware of the importance of recycling," he said. His job, he said, "is to try to make it as easy and convenient as possible."