By Gerhard Schneibel
gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

Keep North Fulton Beautiful, the organization that operates the Morgan Falls Road recycling center in Sandy Springs, has struggled financially since Fulton County withdrew $300,000 worth of annual support about 2½ years ago.

Kathy Reed, the executive director of Keep North Fulton Beautiful, said the recycling center alone costs $74,000 annually. Its one full-time and one part-time employee rely heavily on workers doing court-ordered community service.

Keep North Fulton Beautiful has a $65,000-a-year contract with Sandy Springs to operate the recycling center and organize four annual community programs. It also gets $45,000 a year from Johns Creek and needs $200,000 a year to “keep the doors open and do minimal programming,” Reed said.

Areas in which spending has been limited include the Adopt-a-Road program, compost and satellite facilities, and environmental outreach to schools and offices. The most significant gap in services may be the cancellation of collection events for hazardous household waste.

“People often ask what they should do with leftover paint, chemicals or pesticides,” Reed said. “We really don’t have a good answer for people in Sandy Springs. They’re expensive to collect, and I’m afraid they’re going down the drain.”

Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos said a recycling program is part of the city’s commitment to the state in meeting solid-waste-management standards.

The recycling center needs to collect more to increase its profitability, she said. “I think we need to have recycling centers that are dispersed — or bins — but I think we need to have them more dispersed. That would give them a little bit more revenue because they would get some of the revenue that comes into those bins.

“A lot of nonprofits are having more trouble, but then our city budget is also going to be constrained. Everybody’s got to tighten their belts and live with what they’ve got.”

The Morgan Falls recycling center processes about 2,000 tons of solid waste per year, or 10,959 pounds per day, according to Reed. That is equivalent to 1.74 percent of the daily waste produced in Sandy Springs, although the center also handles waste from elsewhere in Fulton County and beyond.

“It’s a small percentage, but it’s still important,” Reed said. “Our recycling center is a very important part of helping Sandy Springs to reduce its solid-waste output.”

Private contractors handle all waste hauling in Sandy Springs. Some charge extra for recycling or accept only certain materials. Also, 44 percent of the city’s population lives in apartment complexes, which might not provide a recycling option.

Sandy Springs produces about 628,505 pounds of garbage per day. The city’s population was 97,898 in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That puts the city in line with Georgia’s average of 6.42 pounds of municipal garbage per person in fiscal 2007, but that figure is more than twice the national average of 2.56 pounds, according to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Cindy Eade, the education coordinator for Keep North Fulton Beautiful, said that because the organization combines recycling and environmental education, it has the potential to improve the quality of life in the city and foster a sense of community.

“People just like that community spirit of getting together, doing something new, learning something and doing something good for the environment,” she said.

Virginia Nava-Hieger, the volunteer chairwoman of the Keep North Fulton Beautiful board, said the organization has survived on grants, corporate donations and fundraising.

It has become increasingly important for the organization to “continue to increase our profitability,” she said. “We would like to see Sandy Springs become a role model for other cities. … We do believe that we will continue to be sustainable in the future. The key point is to have the continued support of the city and to continue to have the support of the community to see the importance of recycling.”

City finally submits solid-waste plan

It was almost 11 months late, but Sandy Springs recently filed its solid-waste-management plan, which was due to the state Environmental Protection Division last December.

Several people wrote the solid-waste plan separately from the other components of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, Assistant City Manager Al Crace said.

“They developed a draft … but it didn’t really meet up with the standards, so I had it sent back for reworking,” Crace said.

Kimberly King, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, said that although the plan was late, the state and city kept in regular contact. “We are aware of where they stand.”