Watching Our Wasteline: Landfill closes for solid waste June 30

Jun. 13, 2013 @ 02:44 PM

On June 30, the Orange County Landfill will stop accepting household waste, business waste and other putrescible waste (wet waste with food content) known as Municipal Solid Waste or MSW. MSW from Orange County will then be hauled to the Durham City Transfer Station, the Waste Industries Transfer Station also in Durham, Upper Piedmont Regional Landfill in Person County and other permitted sites.

The many other services offered at the Orange County Landfill and at the five residential Solid Waste Convenience Centers will continue to operate as usual. The landfill on Eubanks Road will continue to accept: construction and demolition waste, yard waste, clean wood, tires, white goods, scrap metal and cardboard and there are plans to initiate a mattresses and box springs recycling program at the landfill in July. Also beginning in July, landfill hours are proposed to be reduced to 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Hours for hazardous household waste collection at the landfill will remain 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday but shorten to 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. Electronics collection at the landfill will follow the landfill schedule. Final decisions on these proposals are associated with the Fiscal 2013-14 budget scheduled to be adopted June 18.
What will happen to the landfill site after June 30?  The 26-acre lined MSW landfill on the south side of Eubanks Road will be capped with a layer of thick, flexible polyethylene to keep water out, covered with 24 inches of soil and then grasses will be planted.
Methane gas produced from anaerobically decomposing organic waste will continue to be extracted and used by UNC to make electricity. The whole 208-acre landfill site will be environmentally monitored for at least the next 30 years

Farm-to-Fork picnic diverted 99 percent of waste from landfill disposal
The annual Farm-to-Fork Picnic in Hurdle Mills is a sumptuous feast of locally grown treats that feeds more than 500 ticket holders while starving the landfill.  Event organizers provide the farm/chef teams with compostable serving ware so almost no sorting of waste is needed.  Nearly everything that can’t be eaten that day can be composted or recycled. 
A great team of trash-fee volunteers included members of the North Carolina Composting Council and experienced Hog Day recyclers. Here are the numbers:
* 960 pounds of food and food-related paper waste to be composted;
* 590 pounds of common recyclables (mostly glass wine and beer bottles, paper table toppers, aluminum foil pans, plastic drink bottles);
* 25 pounds of corrugated cardboard recycled;
* 20 pounds of clean plastic film such as ice bags (recycled through Weaver Street Market);
* 1 pounds of wine corks (for local creative reuse);
* 1,596 pounds subtotal recycled, composted and reused vs. 15 pounds of waste (mostly plastic film contaminated with food waste or grease), which equals 99 percent of waste diversion

Compostable, degradable or recyclable?
The state legislature adopted a new law that requires any degradable plastic container sold in North Carolina after June 2014 be clearly and prominently labeled as not recyclable. The bill’s title tells its story:  “AN ACT TO REQUIRE THAT DEGRADABLE PLASTIC PRODUCTS BE CLEARLY LABELED TO PREVENT CONTAMINATION OF RECYCLED PLASTIC FEEDSTOCKS”.
And the ‘punchline is:  “No person shall distribute, sell, or offer for sale in this State any rigid plastic container, including a plastic beverage container labeled "degradable," "biodegradable," "compostable," or other words suggesting the container will biodegrade unless (i) the container … includes a label with the statement "Not Recyclable, Do Not Recycle’ in print of the same color, contrast, font, and size as the language suggesting the container will biodegrade.”
This language will help protect the supply chain for the state’s recycled plastics industry that employs 2,800 people.
Many new products claim to be “green,” “environmentally-friendly,” “degradable,” “biodegradable” and  other vague, unregulated and confusing terms. Even when a product has been determined to be “compostable” by the independent Biodegradable Products Institute (www.bpiworld.org), results can vary. You can still see shreds of a “compostable” bag at Brooks Contractor after the bag had gone through four months or more of composting at its Goldston facility, where  compost  routinely achieves a temperature of 155 degrees to meet federal composting regulations.
What’s the take home message for recyclers and composters? Do not buy or use products that say “degradable” or even “biodegradable” thinking they will be better for the environment. The term “degradable” in this context is meaningless and undefined. Often what results is that larger plastic items break into tiny plastic particles that are less obvious to the eye though not good for the environment.   
Use truly compostable BPI-certified products like PLA cups and then only sparingly and appropriately.  Do not use them if their fate is the landfill. That helps no one. Even in the compost, they become mostly carbon dioxide and water, adding nothing to the compost. If added to recycling, PLA and other bio-based plastics will weaken the recycled materials. Do they make us less oil dependent? Studies say yes, and they sure make trash-free event planning much simpler!
Congratulations to UNC on finishing FIRST in the ACC and eighth nationally in food waste composting in the annual Recycle Mania Competition among US colleges and universities. See all results at http://www.wastereduction.unc.edu/GetInvolved/RecycleMania.
Are you ready to declare your Independence (mostly) from trash, help others do the same, hear some great music for free and support the Eno River? If the answers are yes four times over, then you should become a Trash-Free volunteer for the Eno River Festival this year July 4th & 6th. Contact Christy at at (919) 620-9099 x 203 or Christy@enoriver.org or see www.enoriver.org