I-Team digs into how Charleston County Recycling program spends money

Charleston County crews load recyclables onto 18-wheelers bound for Horry County Recycling Center to be processed.

Charleston County is currently paying $100 per truck to haul recyclables to Horry County to be processed. Right now, the county sends about 11 or 12 of them per day.

Charleston County Councilmember and Solid Waste Committee Chair Colleen Condon says, the agreement with Horry County was the best option given the circumstances of the divorce from Sonoco, the company that used to run the recycling program.

“There were a lot of decisions in the last year that were expensive to Charleston County taxpayers,” said Condon.

Those decisions include not collection money that Condon says Sonoco owed Charleston County for the sale of recycled materials.

“What was budgeted for last year was a million and a half in revenue from Sonoco, unfortunately with the market change it came down some, and in fact we have gotten only about $300,000 in the last fiscal year,” Condon said.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the News 2 I-Team made several attempts to get an accurate accounting of how much Sonoco should have paid the county based on its old contract. So far, the response from county staff is, they are still working on determining that figure.

Condon says it is in the neighborhood of a million dollars, but she also says some staff members working too closely with the company allowed the facility to fall into disrepair, which also cost taxpayers.

“Unfortunately, there was supposed to be a cover put in by the Sonoco contract in January of 2014,” said Condon. “They chose not to do it, and unfortunately staff who was working maybe too closely with them allowed Sonoco to make the decision not to put a cover which reduced the value of the paper.”

Despite the popularity of the recycling program, it still gets eye-rolls from some members of council who call it, “the loss leader in the county”.

They refused to go on camera with their gripes, but some told the I-Team that the nearly $3M paid to a consultant is an example of taxpayer money that is wasted.

Condon defends using the consultant, saying he is an important part of the team.

“We’re talking about an eight-year period, and we’ve had a total program cost of about $280M over the course of those eight years, so having about $3M in expenses for a consultant over that same period is one percent of the program costs,” Condon told the I-Team. “Certainly, a consultant shouldn’t have to be making sure that a vendor pays their bills, unfortunately we have needed a consultant to do that.”

The lingering question is, who made the decision to not collect the money Condon says Sonoco owns. We have requested emails from employees in management positions at that time, and so far the county has not provided those.



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