From consolidating two governments in order to create a more efficient system, to increasing recycling rate and earning high scores on their landfill, Macon-Bibb County Solid Waste Department has redefined their collection services and made it their goal to maintain and keep their communities clean and safe for all residents.
When the City of Macon and the Bibb County governments in Georgia were consolidated in 2015, the Macon-Bibb County Solid Waste Department was created. Formerly, the City of Macon government, Public Works, Parks & Beautification and Solid Waste/Landfill were all combined into one department. Their responsibilities included the upkeep of various parks, right of way cutting, road management, dead animal pickup, weekly household garbage pickup, unlimited yard waste and bulky waste pickup for approximately 30,000 residents, newspaper recycling pickup for city high schools and residents in the historic areas of the city and managing a 300-acre landfill, which was accepting more than 300 tons of garbage daily. From the pool of more than 150 employees, 10 routes were worked daily to provide household garbage, yard waste and bulky waste services. The debris was disposed of at the landfill that was managed through the department. For solid waste/landfill purposes, the City of Macon had one knuckle boom truck, 18 rear loaders and a special pickup truck for dead animal pickup, two excavators, two dozers, two off-road trucks and one compactor.
Over in the former Bibb County government, Solid Waste was a part of the Engineering/Public Works Department. Their responsibilities included right of way cutting, upkeep of county roads, new residential and commercial construction, stormwater and flood plain management, weekly household garbage pickup and limited yard/bulky waste pickup for approximately 15,000 residents. With approximately 90 employees, they provided garbage, yard waste and bulky waste pickup until around 1995. At that time, it was decided it would be more beneficial and cost effective to outsource solid waste services. Bibb County turned in their leased equipment and selected contractor, BFI, through a bid, to provide service for Bibb County. The contract provided weekly household garbage pickup as well as every other week limited, yard/bulky waste pickup and every other week newspaper/cardboard recycling pickup for residents who wanted to participate. The County had one internal employee who was the administrator over the solid waste contract. Bibb County had no landfill, so all the debris collected was disposed of at the BFI’s landfill in a neighboring county. BFI also maintained the fleet used for the service.
In April 2015, the city of Macon and the County of Bibb made the transition to one new solid waste department and services and responsibilities changed. The City/County line was done away with and garbage routes were redefined. Macon-Bibb County was divided into 40 collection routes. Eight residential route areas are worked each day for household garbage collection and recycling, and six residential routes areas are worked each day for yard waste/bulky waste pickup. Advanced Disposal Services was retained as the contractor for the solid waste department with the responsibility of providing household garbage service for all of Macon-Bibb County’s 47,000 residents and the solid waste department was responsible for providing every other week yard waste and bulky waste collection, commercial garbage pickup for all MBC Government facilities and the downtown Macon area, commercial recycling for MBC government facilities, private and public schools, dead animal pickup, backyard pickup for residents who cannot physically take a cart to the road, residential inspection of compliance material and managing a 100 acre landfill, accepting approximately 300 tons of garbage per day.
Macon-Bibb County Solid Waste currently staffs 34 employees—24 in waste collections and administration and 10 at the landfill. In waste collections, the fleet includes: 16 rear loader garbage trucks, three knuckle boom trucks, one roll-off truck and one specialized pickup truck. The landfill fleet includes: two excavators, three dozers, two off-road trucks, one skid steer, one tractor and one crawler loader.
Launching a Recycling Program
In January 2016, Macon-Bibb County launched a Single-Stream Residential Recycling Program. Prior to this program, basically only Newspaper Recycling was provided. More than 5,000 new, 65-gallon recycle carts were delivered accepting plastic caps and bottles, beverage cans, food boxes, mail, paper and cardboard. Recycling was also implemented in three high schools, one magnet middle school and four private schools. Single-stream recycling increased recycling in some areas of Macon by at least 70 percent. Currently, materials are collected and taken to Advanced Disposal’s Recycling Center for processing and transported to Attaway Recycling Center in Milledgeville, GA. Macon-Bibb County also holds events throughout the year for electronic waste.
The County does face the challenge of finding an outlet for recyclable materials. “Glass is a requested material to be recycled by our residents, but because of the cost as well as finding an outlet, we cannot provide that service at the moment,” says Pat Raines, Macon-Bibb’s Director of Solid Waste. “In addition, since our landfill cannot accept yard waste, we have the challenge of finding other disposal sites in good proximity to our collection routes.” Currently yard waste is taken to neighboring counties: Wolf Creek Landfill in Twiggs County and Trans Waste Transfer Station in Houston County. Upon closure of the landfill in 2023, through the county’s SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) program, they will have an alternate disposal site, transfer station or landfill, where they will be able to dispose of our yard waste. Currently, the county’s landfill has a Landfill Gas System in place that is monitored by their engineering firm, Triple Point Engineering. The gas is extracted and sold to Cherokee Brick.
On the Job
Macon-Bibb County Solid Waste conducts weekly safety briefings with all employees. Safety meetings are conducted by collection supervisors and the landfill manager. In addition, all drivers must complete a Defensive Driving Course annually. This is an eight-hour, in-class course with a written test at the end. The course is given by Robert Taylor of the National Safety Council. Employees seeking a CDL are trained on the written as well as driving test. Landfill employees are cross trained monthly on different equipment and Landfill Certification is encouraged for all employees. Landfill certifications are offered by SWANA two times per year in January and July. It involves a three-day training course by SWANA with a written test at the end, which requires a passing score of 70 percent. Results are mailed within four to six weeks of the exam date. The county currently has five people on staff that are Landfill Certified.
Raines says that the biggest challenge has been with staff shortage and equipment problems. “Currently, at our landfill, we have 10 people employed, compared to 17 in past years. In waste collections, we have 20 employees, compared to 35 in past years. As a result, we have reevaluated the staff and given additional training, such as cross-training employees on different equipment and made some internal adjustments, repositioning employees to areas where they would be more effective for the residents and for the department. The adjustments ultimately made day-to-day operations very successful.” When it comes to the equipment, the County has established an excellent working relationship with their Vehicle Maintenance Department, which stays on top of all our equipment providing preventive maintenance as well as repairing it expeditiously.
The Macon-Bibb County Solid Waste Department is actively involved in their community as well, attending monthly neighborhood watch meetings and participating in Senior Center and School Career events where they provide training on the rules and regulations of solid waste. “At our landfill, we offer all Macon-Bibb County residents, a one-time per month, free dump of debris, up to 500 pounds, except for limbs and leaves. We also conducted a Holiday Community Cleanup in November 2019, where we allowed residents to put any/all type of debris at the curb for pickup. This included debris that is generally prohibited from regular pickup. The cleanup yielded 1,600 tons of debris in a seven-week period,” says Raines.
In August 2019, Macon-Bibb County Solid Waste Department appointed Raines as its first African American female Director to lead the department, one of the most important achievements overall for the organization. “I was with Solid Waste for 25 years before becoming Assistant Director and 29 years before becoming Director. Solid Waste has been looked upon as a male dominated position, but times have changed. I want people to know that leading a department is not about gender or color, but about knowledge, experience and the desire to serve the community.”
As far as division achievements, in the Landfill Division of Macon-Bibb County Solid Waste received a score of 95, out of 100, on their EPD Inspection. “All Landfills receive an inspection from the Environmental Protection Division yearly. You are scored on appearance of the landfill and adherence to state policies concerning landfills,” says Raines. “In May 2019, our highest score was attained in the last seven years due to our employees working hard to ensure slopes were built correctly, grass cut, ditches cleaned and garbage was properly covered.” In the Waste Collections Division, implementing the Single-Stream Recycling Program not only made recycling easier and encouraged more residents to recycle, but the program also yielded a 70 percent increase in recycling in some areas of Macon-Bibb County.
Looking ahead, Raines says that the County and Department’s goal is to get back, fully, in the waste collection business without an outside contractor. “MBC Solid Waste Department’s goal is to provide weekly household garbage, recycling, yard waste and bulky waste collection, as well as commercial recycling collection for multi-family dwellings. We work and live in this community and it is our goal to maintain and keep it clean and safe for all residents.” | WA
For more information, contact Pat C Raines, Director of Macon Bibb County Solid Waste Department at (478) 803-0499.