PUTNAM COUNTY — In early October of the year, the Associated Press added to a litany of reports on the national and international struggles in the recycling industry, writing, “At the beginning of the year, [China] enacted an anti-pollution program that closed its doors to loads of waste paper, metals or plastic unless they’re 99.5 percent pure.”

This change has led to severe disruptions in markets for recyclables. Items that once could bailed and sold, can now hardly be given away. Communities throughout the country are struggling with how to manage their recycling operations in this new environment, and Putnam County is no different.

“The reason that we’re here,” begins Commissioner Michael Lammers during a recent discussion held with county workers on the county’s recycling operations, “Is the operational expenses of recycling. We would like to see it go down.”

Currently, operating expenses for recycling costs the county between $105,000 and $150,000 annually. Considering present market conditions, it seems the county’s goal is to bring this cost under $100,000 per year. By reworking how recyclables are sorted and bailed, it is hoped that efficiency gains can lower costs, and extra space can be created to eliminate the trucking of plastic to the old landfill. Some plastic is currently stored there until space is available at the recycling operations area.

“So, what we’re really after is input and a consensus on moving [the recycling bailer] from the front building where it is, to a back building,” Lammers continues, “Any input that anyone has, we need to iron out. And, I’m putting this out as a question, the transport of materials to the old landfill seems to be one place where we can seriously streamline the full process.”

For the next 40 minutes, an extensive conversation was held on the different ways operations could be configured, along with their benefits and detractions. Input was sought and received from the county workers who currently run the operation. Progress was made, but it unfortunately ran up against a difficult challenge. The best configuration for which those present could agree includes space already leased to a private business.

“I do not see this moving forward where we’re going to take a warehousing issue that’s revenue plus, and push that out the door to move-in something that’s revenue negative,” said Lammers. “It’s just not going to happen.”

“So, we’re going to continue dropping plastic out there at the landfill?” asked one of the workers.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out a way around,” answered Lammers.

“It better be quick, I’m telling you,” the worker responded, “Because winter is coming.”

Following continued discussion, this stance against moving a lease holder in order to make room for recycling operations softened. While still clearly against the idea on principle, once it was noted that additional space in another part of the complex might work for that private entity, Lammers agreed to at least discuss it with them.

“I think we’re making progress here,” he said, “This was a preliminary sit-down to get everybody thinking about this…We’ve got to do some research too, and talk to [the private business]. We need to make sure they’re okay with wherever we request they go.”