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A partnership goes to waste: Jefferson County and Waste Management of North America Inc. form the state's first private-public landfill partnership.

When the Arkansas subsidiary of Waste Management of North America Inc. ran out of room at its Pine Bluff landfill, Jefferson County officials were quick to propose a solution.

Why not join forces, close the Waste Management site and the landfill operated by the county, and build a better, more comprehensive facility?

On May 29, Attorney General Winston Bryant and more than 200 city, county and state officials attended the grand opening ceremony for the state's first private-public landfill partnership, Jefferson County Regional Landfill & Recycling Center.

Located north of Pine Bluff on Gravel Pit Road, the 80-acre facility will provide solid waste disposal for 10 southeast Arkansas counties. Included are Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Cleveland, Desha, Drew, Grant, Jefferson and Lincoln counties.

The land for the facility was provided by Jefferson County. All construction costs, which exceeded $3.2 million, were shouldered by Waste Management. The Chicago-based Waste Management is the world's largest solid waste hauler.

The corporation will pay an annual rental fee to the county as well as a host fee for all waste that is hauled to the landfill from outside Jefferson County.

What made the partnership appealing?

According to Jefferson County Judge Jack Jones, more stringent environmental regulations and standards are being implemented by the federal and state governments. He says joining forces allows both entities to more effectively meet the standards.

"For years we were in direct competition with private industry," Jones says. "Waste Management had their landfill business, and the county had ours. Through this new partnership, Jefferson County has placed itself in a good position for the future."

Besides providing an environmentally secure site for waste disposal, the facility will benefit industrial development, Jones says.

"Not only will the facility draw new industry, but it will also help retain existing ones," he says.

The Next Step

The next step is a successful curb side recycling program in the 10 counties being serviced by the facility.

"In order to justify the construction of a sizeable processing facility for recyclables, we will need volume," says Wendy Petty, region director of public affairs for Waste Management. "We need to be able to guarantee a certain volume to make this venture cost effective."

Although a volume that would make the effort cost effective has not been specified, Petty says annual operation costs are expected to top $1 million.

"People need to realize that recycling isn't as simple as collecting the materials," Jones says. "It takes a lot more labor to pull recyclables from waste, a labor costs money. Short-term, you won't save money, but long-term you will.

"As landfill space becomes more precious, recycling will become more popular. But what's going to make recycling really appealing are the new state laws that make certain recycling mandatory."

For instance, Jones says lawn trimmings soon will not be permitted into Arkansas landfills.

The center employs 80 people. Plans are to recycle plastics, glass, steel, aluminum and paper, according to Jones.
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Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 8, 1992
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