Watching Our Wasteline: Recycling on the rise

Feb. 13, 2014 @ 09:13 AM

Recycling tonnage from Orange County recycling programs including curbside, drop-off, commercial, apartments, schools and government buildings rose 21 percent to 7,690 tons in the six months from July through December 2013 compared to 6,353 tons collected during the same period in 2012. During the same period, waste disposed at convenience centers, county government buildings and county schools was up only 1 percent. Waste disposal data were not available from the towns at press time. 

The Board of Orange County Commissioners has decided to conduct public hearings March 18 and April 1 on possible creation of a recycling services tax district to fund curbside recycling in the unincorporated areas of the county (orange bins). The March 18 hearing is at Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road in Chapel Hill and April 1 at the Department of Social Services (old Walmart building) off Mayo Street in Hillsborough. Both are at 6 p.m., preceding the regular county board meetings. 

The unincorporated area program now serves about 13,700 homes with every other week recycling pickup.  A projected 1,700 to 1,800 additional homes could be included with projected minor expansions needed to make the district conform to definable geographic boundaries required by state statute. The program is currently paid for from Solid Waste reserve funds but future program funding must be provided from another source if the program is to continue in its current form. It was formerly funded from an annual $38 per house recycling fee, collection of which is longer deemed consistent with North Carolina statutes. 

Each one reach one; each one teach one recycling

People are more influenced by those within their community circles rather than by people outside them. Based on that premise, Orange County reached out recently to the Orange/Chatham Sierra Club to seek out those who want to influence others to recycle more and waste less.  

In January about 15 people attended the two informal and informative discussions department staff presented on the importance of recycling, how recycling is and might be funded in the future, and an in-depth discussion about plastics.  The conversations revealed a wide array of efforts!   

A local church has a “recycling table” one Sunday a month, where the congregation shares recycling literature and collects special items such as batteries and fluorescent bulbs. Claudia Prose leads recycling at the Clay Centre and Red Clay Coop a local pottery in Carrboro and takes their hazardous materials for recycling at the County facility. Some people attending the recycling ‘classes’ took “recycling reminder signs” after the meetings to place in their neighborhood before their recycling day. Several have started recycling programs at work where there were none.  A few talk to their neighbors, and one fine soul agreed to be the “recycling ambassador” for her neighborhood, checking with newcomers to make sure they have recycling bins and know our local rules.  

Many class attendees already share the Solid Waste Department’s monthly Solid Waste and Recycling e-newsletter with neighborhood list-servs and friends.  Sign up at: []   

A grandmother in the group talked about bringing a recycling activity to her granddaughter’s pre-K class, after borrowing some materials from the Solid Waste Management Department. 

One young Sierran pledged to teach recycling principles to her youth group at church using a bag of “trash.” That time-honored method of teaching waste reduction will be the basis of the next “Recycling 101” class to be taught by Orange County’s Muriel Williman on March 1 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Solid Waste Administrative office, 1207 Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill.   

Interested in creating more recycling in your sphere of influence? Come to the class which will cover what can be recycled in Orange County, why, and why not, how materials are sorted and marketed, and what products recycled materials get made into.  


Spring 2014 Composting Classes, led by seasoned composting expert, Muriel Williman
1) March 8, 10-11:30 a.m. at the Community Center Learning Garden on Estes Drive, Chapel Hill

2) March 19, 3-4:30 p.m. at the Carolina Campus Community Garden, Wilson St. (off Cameron) in Chapel Hill.  Register with Paula Cook: 919-843-8524 or email

3) March 22, 10-11:30 a.m. at the Solid Waste Administrative Office, 1207 Eubanks Road, Chapel Hill 27516 

These three classes are FREE. Children are welcome if accompanied by an adult. These classes demonstrate the basics of indoor composting using worms and outdoor composting

  1. Worm Bin Make and Take at the Scrap Exchange, 923 Franklin St., Durham 27701. March 16 2-4 p.m. Cost: $35.  Register: 919-213-1278 email or register online: In this hands-on workshop, participants make their own tidy and efficient indoor composting bin specifically designed for composting in apartments, classrooms, or other indoor spaces. Includes everything you need to construct and take home your own bin, even the worms!  Learn to recycle your food waste, care for your worms, harvest the compost, and feed your plants.  Public school teachers get $10 off!


Orange County has ordered 19,500 blue recycling carts in anticipation of the switch in the weekly urban (blue bin) program from bins to wheeled carts in June 2014. Carts should make recycling easier for most people. The carts have capacity of 95 gallons compared to the two bins’ combined 36 gallons. The carts will have 25 percent recycled plastic content and be embedded with radio frequency identification chips to help track cart inventory and overall program participation. No other data can be collected from the chip. 


We welcome to the County’s commercial recycling program: Cross Fit Local, City Electric, Chapel Hill Gymnastics   and EIPI and Fireplace Editions all located at the little industrial park on Rex Road near the intersection of Millhouse and Eubanks in Chapel Hill. When informed of the new on-site recycling opportunity Fireplace Editions’ co-owner Dann Crane said, “That’s great, now I don’t have to take the recyclables home with me anymore.” We also welcome to the County food waste collection program Red Lotus restaurant on South Elliott Road.  


Early heads up: Shred A Thons for confidential paper will be April 24 in Chapel Hill and April 26 in Hillsborough. Both events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and restricted to  Orange County residents and local government employees. Five box limit.