PICKENS COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Pickens County has a new strategy to make use of a landfill that was over capacity. Officials said the solutions will fix a problem and save you money.

Leaders said at one point in time, their landfill was on the verge of closing, especially during COVID.

“Everybody was at home. Everybody was ordering everything online, so our trash intake almost quadrupled in a very short amount of time,” said Steve Raines, Pickens County Solid Waste Manager. “When I got here, our C&D (construction and demolish) landfill, which is the only open landfill we have in Pickens County was set to be closed.”

“The problem that we found was, it was overcapacity. So, they had to get it back down to capacity before they could cap and close the landfill,” Raines said. “We started looking at some alternative ways to keep from closing it.”

For the last few years, it was overcrowded.

“Our landfill when I started, between 25,000 and 28,000 cubic yards over capacity, which is the equivalent of seven to nine Olympic size swimming pools full of material,” Raines said.

At one point, crews had to truck the trash to Greenville County.

“All of that expense, all of those employees, all of that gas and equipment needed to move our garbage to Greenville County. What we’ve done now, and what county council has supported us in doing now, is taking care of Pickens County’s garbage here in Pickens County,” said Pickens County Administrator Ken Roper.

Roper said they had to think outside the box with a new sustainable approach.

“This machine I got behind me, the shredder, it takes down 15-to-one. 18-to-one, getting more in the same space in a landfill,” Roper said.

“That shredder takes construction debris and turns it into a mulch like material, but at the same time, it pulls all the metals out of that material, which in turn, and around six months, we paid for our machine, with the metals and with the reduction in staff that we had to have operate the landfill,” Raines said.

Raines said with the metal that is pulled out, they’re able to make money off of it.

“And fuel cost and trucking cost, and all those things, it paid for the machine, which was phenomenal,” Raines said.

He also said it helps the community.

“It’s also taking the metals out of the ground, which in turn, takes away a lot of those chemical reactions that cause a lot of the smells that you have in a landfill,” Raines said.

It doesn’t stop there. The county purchased a new bailer, which compresses items.

“We had a bailer that we used for 25 years. It outlived its life cycle,” Raines said. “So just last year, we got a new bailer that came in our facility. We use that to bail cardboard, plastic, aluminum, paper, tin, white waste.”

“Those bails are sold to vendors as a commodity and the recycling industry is kind of gone down hill a lot in the last few years,” Raines said.

“So, it makes it cost effective to haul it up and down the road,” Raines said.

Officials said this is the “cutting edge of garbage.” They tell us they’re one of the first in the state to do this.

“Steve Raines, who come up with this concept, who pitched this concept to county council, he has been recognized now on a state level,” Roper said. “He won the South Carolina Recycling Association Award, statewide for shredding to sustainability. It’s something that we think people will emulate from landfill to landfill.”

“This isn’t the only fix, but this is the future of landfilling. This is the way landfilling will be done around this state in the coming years, because it makes too much economic sense,” Roper said.

Raines said this has not only created more space, but he said it will keep things going in the long run.

“We’re not having to close our landfill, and that’s good for the taxpayer because it cuts back on our trucking cost and trucking is very expensive right now,” Raines said. “Fuel prices are up. We can’t hardly find parts for our trucks. It’s an industry wide problem, and by doing this, and not having to truck all of this material, we’re saving a lot of the taxpayer dollars, and ultimately, we don’t have to raise taxes later to help keep this thing going.”

Raines said they now want to educate people on the work they are doing at the landfill in Pickens County.

They’re opening the landfill up for anyone to come tour, adding that anyone can reach out to the Pickens County Solid Waste Office to schedule that tour.