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How your garbage helps power Redstone Arsenal

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. -- Madison County Commission members say they have received a number of complaints about the county's recycling program. The complaints include inconsistent pickups, too small bins, or lack of recycling all together in parts of Madison. But the commission says it actually isn't the county's program.

How the recycling program works is the Solid Waste Disposal Authority (SWA) hires Republic Services to pick up the recycling at no cost to Madison County or its citizens.

The commission said the SWA has heard the complaints of the recycling bin sizes, but there are a few challenges. Bigger recycling containers would mean the recycling trucks themselves would need to change. That would result in a multi-million dollar expense. One possible solution the commission discussed is potentially getting rid of the recycling program altogether. That wouldn't mean the waste would go in a landfill. Instead, it would go where Madison County already sends most of its garbage to be turned into energy.

There is a difference between trash and garbage. Garbage is household waste that comes from the bathroom and kitchen, like food and paper products. Trash includes yard waste like grass clippings, twigs or old furniture. It's the garbage in Madison County that is put to good use.

"It goes to the steam plant. That steam converts to energy for Redstone Arsenal," said Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong. "One of our best and most economical ways to recycle is to put your garbage in your garbage can."

The steam plant produces nearly 180,000 pounds of steam per hour which travels seven miles from the plant to the Arsenal.

Strong said Madison County is the second largest producer of garbage for the steam plant and they still need more. He said the best option may be to send garbage and recycling to the steam plant.

"So we're gonna look and see what's best and find out environmentally what's correct and economically what's correct," Strong said.

He also said that while many in the county want those blue recycling bins, the commission has to balance that with the efficiency of a diesel truck traveling miles out of the way to pick up one garbage can.

Madison County Commission members said they will further explore the best options for the recycling program and hope to make improvements soon.