Dothan reopens recycling centers under new manned format

Little time passed before Dothan-area residents noticed the city had reopened its recycling center at the former National Guard Armory near Westgate Park.

“When the cans came back, people started coming back,” said Steven Burgess, City of Dothan’s environmental services manager, noting the three large canisters have each been dumped once in less than two weeks.

The centers at Westgate Park and the city’s landfill on Burkett Road recently reopened after a three-month hiatus, though the city plans a grand opening of the facilities on April 22, Earth Day. The city shuttered its recycling centers in early December for a variety of reasons – lack of use not being one of them.

Some major changes have occurred in the recycling market since China closed its ports to American recyclables in late 2017. Those market impacts forced city officials to re-evaluate several aspects of Dothan’s recycling program, especially in the light of skyrocketing costs.

Additionally people dumped materials that cannot be recycled – and many times their trash – at the unmanned sites at night. With those factors combining, city officials essentially enacted a partial reset on the recycling program and closed all four of its sites.

Since then city officials have signed a contract with Repower South in Montgomery to accept the city’s recyclables at a lower cost, developed some marketing materials explaining the program and reopened two manned, secure recycling centers to help the public. The manned centers allow city employees to reinforce the recycling protocols – mainly the types of material the city accepts – with the public, said Jon Marshall, assistant environmental services manager.

“It is super important for us to engage the public when they pull up,” he said. “We want him speaking to people, talking to people. It’s a confusing thing – recycling. It’ll help to educate and solve that part of it.”

Burgess and Marshall noted acceptable recyclable materials change as the markets change. Having a city employee at each of the recycling centers allows those changes to be communicated quickly, as well, Burgess said.

Additionally the manned site, combined with fencing and security cameras that monitor after-hours activities, ensures the sites remain clean of debris and uncontaminated.

“We have had people that will bring their trash out here because they think it’s still a trash site,” Burgess said. “Mark (Richardson) has had to tell them this is just recycling.”

Richardson, who monitors the Westgate center, said most people embrace the information and service he provides.

“You’ve got a lot of conscientious people coming out here,” he said. “They want to do the right things, and they want to put the right things in the receptacles. They’re very happy that it’s back out here.”

The centers are open during weekdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.