Published: Aug 30, 2006 12:04 PM
Modified: Aug 30, 2006 12:04 PM
County programs see increases
Orange Community Recycling
During the fiscal year that ended June 30, Orange County residents and businesses increased their use of county recycling programs by 10 percent, or 1,600 tons.The amount of waste buried at Orange County landfills increased by only 2 percent during that same time while county population went up an estimated 1 percent. County residents made particularly outstanding use of the Toxic Reduction Improvements Program (TRIP), whose recycling weights went up by 22 percent during the past year. Most of that 107-ton increase was in electronics recycling, raising Orange County's collection rate per capita to the highest in North Carolina and, according to the N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention, among the highest in the nation. Our hazardous waste program saw 7 percent growth in tonnage and 8 percent in customer visits, from 4,600 to almost 5,000 last year. Cost per ton declined 8 percent for TRIP overall. This bundle of programs includes motor oil, oil filters, antifreeze and battery recycling as well as electronics and hazardous waste. For these TRIP productivity improvements, Orange County Recycling Programs Manager Rob Taylor garnered a Kettner Award from the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. Ralph Kettner, a private citizen, initiated and funded these awards 15 years ago to recognize productivity improvements by county governments in North Carolina. Other individual county programs mostly saw increases in tonnage, including a 13 percent increase in tonnage recovered from the in-town, weekly curbside program; 4 percent in the rural biweekly program; 1 percent growth in apartment collections; and a 7 percent rise in collections from drop-off sites. The food waste program, where a modest 25 stops yield 2,350 tons of compostable food waste and lab animal bedding, saw a notable 23 percent increase in tons. We calculated slight declines in tonnage from the commercial glass and can collection program and the in-house local government program.The county conducts several other materials recovery programs at the landfill including converting yard waste to mulch, collection of scrap metal and clean wood that are banned from disposal by local ordinance and diversion of tires and appliances for recycling by state law. Collectively the tonnage managed there declined by 9 percent, all of which was due to a decrease in the amount of incoming yard waste. That statistic is strictly a function of the weather -- no ice storms means less yard waste. The other categories of material managed at the landfill all saw an increase, most notably the amount of scrap metal collected rose a surprising 12 percent, or 90 tons. This is good news not only for resource recovery and diversion but also for the solid waste revenue picture: Scrap metal prices improved last year world-wide, so did our modest amount of income from this source. Orange County does sell some of its recovered recyclables. In last year's strong markets we grossed more than $493,000, representing about 16 percent of that division's operating costs. Revenue from curbside recycling is ceded to the contractor as the contractor bears the downside risk when recycling prices decline and benefits from the increases when those occur. These results do not include UNC's recycling and waste reduction programs, which maintain a healthy recycling rate of around 40 percent of all the materials managed from campus operations. Last year recycling from campus efforts totaled about 3,700 tons, including generally the same materials as Orange County, while 5,700 tons of garbage were discarded. Construction waste from the vast amount of activity on campus is not included in these totals as that is privately managed and much harder to track, UNC is ensuring that the waste from construction projects on campus is delivered to county-licensed, privately operated mixed-waste recycling facilities or, when free of recyclables, to the county landfill or other approved landfills.Program improvements scheduled for later this year should yield additional increases as we plan to add mixed paper to curbside recycling collection, have expanded hours of the hazardous household waste operation to six days a week and plan some modest expansion of customers for the commercial food waste program. With strong ongoing citizen participation in all programs, we hope to continue to improve the county's rate of waste reduction. Later this year, a revised draft of the county's plan to move us closer to our goal of 61 percent per person waste reduction will be released for public comment and review.
Contact Blair Pollick at chapelhillnews.com.