Load limit ruled for yard waste

CONYERS -- The change in seasons is clearly bringing more leaves on the ground, but Rockdale County residents are only permitted to bring one load of lawn waste a week to be recycled.

Local resident Garvin Haynes expressed his dissent of the current policy at Tuesday's Board of Commissioners meeting during public comment and contended it is "absolutely in error."

"One load per week does not do the job," Haynes said.

As it stands, residents are permitted a single drop-off of woody debris to the recycling center at 1200 Sigman Road. The amount of loads used to be unlimited until officials tightened the reins in August.

"The policy changed because woody debris drop-off was being abused by contractors who would bring large quantities in. And if they were residents or they owned property, we had no way to keep them out," said Recreation and Maintenance Deputy Director Sue Roberts in an e-mail response. "Limiting the quantity to just what a homeowner would bring was our best option."

"One guy probably came in five or six times," recalled Mike Flanigan at the recycling center before the policy change.

Flanigan explained he now tries to keep a tally of those who come in by keeping up with the vehicle tag numbers.

He estimated typical loads do not weigh any more than 200 pounds.

"It's just that one load is as much as they can bring," Flanigan said.

Roberts said the county does not punish residents they find using the center more than once and mentioned she is "always willing to work with any citizen."

"The center is in no way stopping anyone if they come in with a few bags of leaves on, say Tuesday, and on Thursday that same resident wants to drop off a few limbs," Roberts said. "Again, the intent is to keep out contractors and others cleaning yards for hire that are abusing what the center is intended for, which is for residential use only."

Rockdale County offers residents the service for free and pays a company to grind the debris into mulch, also available free of charge. The county spent $81,000 from the solid waste fund last year to grind the debris.

"Also, because residents don't take out as much as is brought in, the center is forced to, at times, truck out mulch, which costs the county money in fuel, labor and equipment costs," Roberts said.

Besides keeping costs low, the county is also faced with regulations from the state environmental protection division, explained Roberts, mentioning a few mulch fires before she came on board.

"The center is mandated to lower the amount of mulch, not increase it," Roberts said.

Roberts noted available alternatives for those who need to dispose of woody debris more often than once a week include using a landfill, grinding, burning or just waiting until next week.