Harrison Cook approached Lauderdale County supervisors again Thursday about amending their waste plan to allow for a recycling center in county limits.
Cook, an owner of JWC Environmental, proposed a recycling facility to supervisors in September, urging them to change the county’s waste plan in order to allow construction on the center to proceed.
“We’re the only company in East Central Mississippi with beneficial use permits,” Cook told supervisors, naming Atlas Roofing as a customer. “We’ve saved a couple hundred tons from landfills.”
Cook said JWC recycled 91 million pounds last year and was on track to recycle 128,000 pounds in 2019, averaging approximately $0.0074 per pound.
“We’re not only asking for the facility but we already have the right connections,” Cook said, highlighting partnerships to dispose of paper waste and tires. “As you can see, recycling is not a big money maker but it is good for the environment.”
Cook said that the site could help cut down on illegal dumping by marketing itself as an alternative place to dump waste that could be recycled, such as tires, plastics or paper goods.
“Lauderdale County could lead the charge with recycling in this area,” Cook said. “Recycling is a myth in Lauderdale County right now.”
Cook also proposed allowing county residents to dump their waste at the facility with the county covering their fees.
“If we allow citizens to dump here it should take the pressure off of us,” Rush Mayatt, the county’s road manager, said. “I’ll get calls saying, ‘I have a pile of limbs or a pile of X by the road’ but we don’t have a way to get that … so their next question is, ‘Where does it go?’ And they can either burn it or take it to Waste Management. We don’t really have an avenue to help in that situation.”
Mayatt said that grants may cover any fees charged by JWC for disposal of goods such as tires.
“If we can have our rates to where even out-of-county residents… can bring (waste) for $20, $30… they’ll bring it,” Cook said.
Cook said that the center would have an economic impact as well.
“Anytime you have a large industry looking to locate, a lot of them are going to ask, ‘What does your recycling look like?' ” Cook said.
Jonathan Wells, the board president and supervisor for District 1, echoed the potential attraction to industry.
“If an industry wants to come to us and ask what we have in terms of recycling we can say that we have this with JWC,” Wells said. “It would definitely be a positive.”
Moving forward, supervisors highlighted the need to educate the public about the possible new resource.
Josh Todd, the supervisor for District 3, suggested going to the schools and educating children.
“As a kid, they’ll say, ‘No, daddy, don’t throw that away. It’s recyclable,” Todd said. “They’ll take it home with them.”
Betty Lou Jones, with the Keep Meridian/ Lauderdale County Beautiful organization, said that the organization’s affiliation with Keep America Beautiful and Keep Mississippi Beautiful could help the county advertise about new programs.
“We do have the resources through the national and state program … to advertise about new recycling initiatives,” Jones said. “That’s one thing we can offer.”
Jones also offered to build upon the education component by encouraging teachers to sign up for Waste in Place curriculum training, which offers Continuing Education Credits to teachers.
“We’re offering it June 13 to all teachers… we need at least 20 to have it and so far about half that number have signed up,” Jones said.
The five-hour training session comes free to teachers and includes a $60 training book with lesson plans about recycling and beautification. If more than 25 teachers sign up for the course, the organization will offer another class.
“The younger generation is very interested in recycling,” Jones said. “Once the teachers are trained, then we’ll go to the schools and ask them to please implement this (program)… but you’ve got to have the teachers trained.”
Jones also asked supervisors to appoint board members to the organization, saying it fell out of practice some years ago.
In September, when Cook first approached supervisors about the recycling facility, Jim Copeland, the community planning liaison officer for the Naval Air Station in Meridian, voiced his concerns about birds being attracted to the facility.
“They’re attracted to the odor,” Copeland said in September. “We can avoid existing landfills but if you add another… you’re just adding complexities that don’t need to be there.”
On Thursday, Cook discussed a “redundant” filtration system for odor, saying the building’s entries would have a misting system, the floor would be washed nightly and wastewater would be recycled.
“One of the biggest problems is most people build a sewer lagoon (for wastewater),” Cook said about odor issues.
Everything the facility would be transferred out within 24 hours, Cook said.
Cook mentioned the U.S. Air Force’s BASH program, or Bird/ wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard. Cook said that the Navy, with fewer inland stations, didn’t have the same studies about waste transfer stations that the Air Force had.
“The Air Force is in full support of transfer stations,” Cook said. “They’re against open-air landfills.”
Cook said he would invite someone from the Air National Guard 186th Air Refueling Wing to speak about safety issues with jets.
Copeland repeated the base’s concerns about the facility, advocating for a full study before the county moved forward
“There’s 150 jets that pass that point every day. That has to be taken into account,” Copeland said.
Chris Lafferty, the county administrator, said in previous discussions with the Navy they indicated they wouldn’t pay for such a study.
“I want to ensure the Navy base… we realize the importance of NAS. I don’t want you to think we’re skipping over that or ignoring that,” Wells said. “It’s a process. It sounds like they have to give a whole host of things to (Lafferty about amending the county’s waste plan). And we don’t want to leave you out.”
Cook said it could take at least a year before the facility could open, considering the county’s need to hold a public hearing to amend its waste plan and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality permitting process.
“I do want you to be a part of every step of the process,” Cook said.