Pine Bluff is getting greener, officials say


The Pine Bluff area offers residents several opportunities to put an environmentally friendly outlook into practice, including facilities set up to accept many types of household items for recycling and a new city bus fleet that gets more than double the gas mileage of the old vehicles and meets strict emissions standards, officials said.

Recycling

Pine Bluff area residents have several recycling options available to them including the Pine Bluff Household Hazardous Waste Recycling Collection Center at 16th Avenue and Pennsylvania Street and the Jefferson County Recycling Center at 3304 W. Seventh Avenue.

Sandra Graves is the Jefferson County recycling coordinator.

“As of right now the plans are to continue to do what we are doing with our drop off center,” Graves said. “We accept aluminum, metal, paper, and cardboard.”

“We no longer accept plastic and glass because we can’t find a market for it,” Graves said. “We only take what we can sell.”

Graves said that old tires can be dropped off at the recycling center located at 6700 Gravel Pit Road.

Local employer Evergreen Packaging is doing its part for the environment by maintaining environmentally friendly practices.

Evergreen purchases the old tires after they have been chipped into rubber pellets that it then uses to produce power at its mill south of Pine Bluff.

Matt Claypool, the director of environmental health and safety at Evergreen, said that use of the tire pellets helps to increase the efficiency of its power generation.

“We’ve been using tire derived fuel on and off for about five years,” Claypool said. “The recycling center captures the tires in the area and processes them through its chipping operation. We mix it in with bark and it helps to sustain combustion when the bark is damp. We have state of the art pollution control equipment on the boiler which produces a clean way to recover energy from an item that would otherwise end up in landfills or in people’s backyards”

Claypool said that the paper industry’s commitment to the environment is long established.

“The paper industry is one of the first industries to use green fuel,” Claypool said. “We use 100 percent of the tree with 70 percent of our energy supplied from the waste products of the trees we use to make paper. We use the bark as well as the natural glue that holds the wood fiber together.”

Claypool said that the mill uses top notch equipment and qualified personnel to limit its emissions.

“Our boilers and precipitators are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure emissions are within regulations,” Claypool said.

Waste Management, the company that picks up household garbage from residences and businesses in Pine Bluff and throughout Arkansas every week, is in the process of phasing in an ambitious recycling program, according to a spokesman.

“This month marked the first month of a new 10 year contract in central Arkansas involving 90,000 homes in Little Rock, North Little Rock and Sherwood,” said George Wheatley, market area public affairs director with Waste Management. “We have provided recycle carts with lids and have expanded the number of materials that can be recycled.”

Wheatley expects this program to be introduced to the Pine Bluff area towards the end of the year.

Wheatley said that the new program in the central part of the state is increasing the company’s ability to recycle various household items.

“We are collecting 100 tons a day now versus between 30 and 40 tons before, “Wheatley said.

Wheatley explained that the new program has switched from a dual stream approach, which depended upon each driver to manually sort through curbside recycling, to a single stream approach that utilizes a single recycling container that is automatically dumped into the truck.

“I think it is very likely that we will bring this program to southeast Arkansas,” Wheatley said. “Many of the Pine Bluff City Council members want the program in Pine Bluff.”

Wheatley said that further discussion between city officials and Waste Management will have to wait until the company finishes work on a new automated sorting facility in Little Rock.

“Our new recovery facility will allow us to process 15 to maybe 20 tons of recyclable materials where we are doing maybe half that right now,” Wheatley said. “The new automated machinery will allow us to double our speed and triple our capacity.”

“The project is expected to be complete by September and we will start discussions in Pine Bluff as we get a little more comfortable in the project time line,” Wheatley said. “We will be talking with the mayor and his staff and towards the end of this year we will hopefully have the program here.”

Wheatley said that the key to successful recycling programs is the ability to find buyers for the recycled items.

“We have a manager who has a network of companies and individuals who the products are sold to,” Wheatley said. “One of the most important things in the recycling industry is making sure that you have good working relationships with buyers.”

The Pine Bluff Collection Center accepts many types of hazardous waste products including old electronic equipment like computers and cell phones, old batteries of all types, used motor oil and filters, antifreeze, paint, pesticides, drain cleaner, fluorescent light bulbs, and used hypodermic needles.

The Pine Bluff Collection Center also accepts separated traditional recyclables including cardboard, plastic bottles (#1 and #2 only), soft plastic bags (no candy wrappers), aluminum cans, steel cans, as well as clear, brown and green glass.

Public transit

Larry Reynolds, manager for Pine Bluff Transit, said that the city recently purchased several new buses with strong environmental appeal.

“We have four of the new buses that were purchased with stimulus money,” Reynolds said. “We have a budget request for one more. They meet California emissions standards, which are the strictest in the nation. These new buses get between 8.1 and 8.4 miles per gallon while the buses these replaced got 3.87 mile per gallon. We have better mileage and use less fuel.”

Reynolds said that the diesel powered buses that the city received in September of last year have an expected 12 years of service life with a per bus cost of $318,733.

Reynolds said that city bus ridership is up in recent months.

“We don’t have exact current ridership numbers but ridership is up,” Reynolds said. “Part of that is because of the new buses and part of that is because of higher gas prices.”

Reynolds said that the city would like to have been able to purchase compressed natural gas buses but that the cost issue was prohibitive.

“There are no natural gas fueling stations in this area and it would cost $250,000 to build one,” Reynolds said.