Erwin, others continue efforts to improve recycling in Bryant

By Martin Couch

Bryant is ranked by CNN polls and Money magazine in the top 100 cities in the United States but that standing could be better if there was more recycling of solid waste materials.[more]

According standards set by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), by the year 2013, Bryant and all of Saline County should be recycling 40 percent of its trash. Currently, the percentage of recycling is only one percent. For many, that has become a growing concern and raises questions about how Bryant can improve its recycling plan?

Two years ago, in a 20/20 Town Hall meeting hosted by the Bryant Chamber of Commerce, the number one most-talked-about change that the city needed was recycling. A committee was formed and Jim Erwin volunteered to lead the drive towards improvements.

“We all thought it would be a piece of cake at that time, but we found out from the Saline County Waste Management District director, we didn’t know what was going on,” Erwin said. “The main service was the ADEQ who called the shots for state-wide solid waste recycling. They are the governing body.”

Saline County’s Waste Management District holds monthly meetings and Erwin started attending them to find out more information to aid the city’s plan for recycling. He found out the county had 10 solid waste hauler businesses.

“I know of seven in Bryant who haul trash and the one thing we knew was that it was detrimental to the infrastructure of the roads on daily basis,” Erwin said. “We also found out the recycling points of the county really didn’t have an organization structure.”

Currently, there are recycling bins at Bryant City Hall and Bethel Middle School.

“We found out the Bryant School District is very big into recycling and I reported to the Superintendent at that time and he contacted me with an e-mail letting me know that Brandi Soucy was very involved in the ‘Green Team’ for the school and she shared with us concerns that full recycling bins weren’t being picked up,” Erwin said. “That was taken care of later, but we let it ride for a while and did more research. We found out that we didn’t have an adequate place for recycling in Bryant so we talked to Mayor Larry Mitchell and he was all for it.”

But the question of how to address the situation of as many as seven haulers still remained, and is still a work in progress.

“We, as a city, county, state and nation need to do a better job of recycling,” MItchell said. “It’s hard to find some to do plastic or glass recycling, but we can find it for computers, appliances, newspapers, white paper, computers and metal. We’ve got recycling bins here, for newspapers, white paper and aluminum cans and the schools are doing a good job of recycling and also encouraging kids to bring stuff from home.”

At City Hall, even in the mayor’s office, there are two trash cans — one for paper and one for aluminum cans.

“City-wide, it’s very hard, because we don’t have one provider that collects everything,” Mitchell said. “We have two or three national providers and many small providers. It’s kind of difficult at times to tell citizens to use a certain provider whether they want to or not.”

In the 1990’s, BFI was the sole provider for Bryant, but a group of citizens came to the City Council and the mayor and it was agreed that individuals could decide on their own providers. Now a mandatory recycling proposal is being talked about.

“All of the recycling would be taken to the landfill or, as Saline County Judge Lanny Fite talked about, taking it to a facility on Edison Avenue (in Benton) to have prisoners sort through it,” Erwin said. “Because of the ADEQ mandate, Saline County Solid Waste Management district is not a profitable item. They made a request for a proposal and, what the people have to understand is, those commissioners have the right if they want to do county-wide recycling to enforce a fee to every person in Saline County by law. Also the ADEQ can come in and say that we are not meeting their plan and assess a fee, as well.”

A report on the minimum requirements was presented by ADEQ in 2008, but so far it has not been implemented.

“What we’d like to do in Bryant is have curb-side recycling, because people won’t take it to the recycling bins,” Erwin said. “The Chamber of Commerce gets calls every week about recycling, and we appreciate them very much for being behind us 100 percent on this, but we have to get the City Council to accept the fact that we need to do curb-side recycling. It’s about convenience in our society, so each resident can have a trash can like they have now and put everything recyclable in it and it can be taken to a facility to be separated or sold.”

Others think a curb-side service would work.

“I, as an individual in Bryant, would recycle more if there were home pickup,” said Bryant alderman Ed Collins. “What we have currently is a big bin at City Hall and people take it there, but I would even separate it for whoever was picking it up, like plastics, metals, etc . . . I would think with the busy lives of everyone, residents in Bryant would participate if there were curb-side service.”

One of the disappointments Erwin and the committee found out was plastics were not accepted for recycling anywhere in Saline County.

“I was taking my plastics to War Memorial Park once a month, but we found out that, at the Fouche Dam recycling facility in Little Rock, they were separating and sending the plastics to Georgia,” Erwin said. “They can’t get enough, from what I was told, and would accept it from Saline County if there was a way to haul it. So far it has not been accepted and it would only be a hauling and labor cost.”

The landfill profits come from the number of tonnage it handles.

“If we do recycling in the county, it’s going to drop the tonnage,” Erwin said. “It’s been a learning experience for all of us and our number of volunteers have dropped down, because it’s been a process. There are four or five of us who still meet and try to get recycling going, but the only way to do it is get an ordinance passed by the city requiring every resident to do recycling and that has to be done by the haulers themselves.”

Erwin cites the ideal situation is to go to one or two hauler system and have the fees added to the water bill. The city would collect the money and disperse it to the haulers, but currently with seven different haulers, that proposal would be difficult.

“Some of the City Council members don’t want to dictate to the residents who they choose as a hauler,” Erwin said. And, indeed, there are some residents who don't think recycling should be required or mandated.

But Erwin argues, “We are one of the top 100 towns in the nation and we don’t have a quality recycling program and that’s the number one issue that people want.”

Another City Council member Adrian Henley sees a favorable outcome with one or two haulers, but not so much with adding the cost to an already high water bill for Bryant citizens. 

“I'm not in favor of picking certain trash haulers for the city,” Henley said. “I think we should establish a city-funded trash service just the same as we have with the street department or water department.”

There are grants available from the state’s Solid Waste Management to aid in recycling efforts.

“What we’d like to see is south and north based haulers,” Erwin said. “The calculations we’ve got say it would be cheaper to do trash and recycling than what people are presently paying.”

For more information on recycling in Bryant, visit

1 comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!