Watching Our Wasteline: New year for reuse, recycling

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 01:40 PM

For the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the Orange County Solid Waste Office (and other county offices) will be closed. The landfill and solid waste convenience centers will also be closed. Curbside recycling will take place as usual – please have bins out by 7 a.m.
How many times have you forgotten to bring your own shopping bag, your coffee mug or, for the real hard-core, your own leftovers take-home container?  Our own Muriel Williman exercises what she calls Reusers Soft Self-Discipline, which means if she did not bring her mug – no coffee for her. No shopping bag? Then only what she could hand carry.  The leftovers box is another call altogether because no one wants to waste food.
What are your “reusolutions”? What sort of intentionality did you have in holiday gift- giving this year as either a giver or a receiver?  The Center for a New American Dream ( has a great pamphlet about gifting philosophy  on their Web page and for the cost of your registration information, you can ask yourself some great questions for next year or any gift-giving opportunity in between.
Recycle to reduce unemployment in N.C.
An October 2012 presentation by state recycling chief Scott Mouw at the NC Environmental Review Commission showed our state has manufacturing capacity to use more than 600 million pounds of recycled plastic bottles a year or more than 7 billion bottles, but only about one-sixth of those bottles now come from North Carolina recycling programs. The rest are imported. Every bottle collected for recycling in our state can add to the state’s economic base, creating new wealth and jobs here while conserving resources and protecting the environment. A College of Charleston study publicized by the Southeast Recycling Development Council stated that if North Carolina recycled 10 percent more of our solid waste each year, or about 900,000 tons, we could create 1,600 new jobs generating over $78 million in personal income resulting in $3.6 million in new tax revenue. That seems like a jobs and environment program everyone – Republican, Democrat or independent – can get behind. To help, follow this simple plan with every plastic bottle you meet: empty, squash, put the cap back on then place in the nearest recycling bin.
Recycling news from the UNC campus
The 2013 RecycleMania competition is about to start. RecycleMania ( is a friendly competition for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Over a 10-week period, schools report recycling and trash data which are then ranked according to who collects the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita, or has the highest recycling rate. Each week participating schools can see how their results compare against other schools and use this to rally their campus communities to reduce and recycle more. Pre-season trials began this month and the official tournament start is Feb. 3. 
This year, there are also three special categories: electronics waste, plastic film, and a Basketball Game Day Challenge. UNC’s office of waste reduction will be hosting electronic waste and plastic film drives around campus throughout the competition. Those drives will be open to the public (unlike other categories where the material must be generated on campus). Dates TBD. You can check with them at  OWRR is also working with UNC Athletics and Student Government’s Environmental Affairs Committee to further “green” one home basketball game through increased fan education about recycling at the Smith Center. 
Orange County’s first Electro Junk Dump a success
On Nov. 17, Orange County held its first collection of electronics especially for business located in downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro.  Five local businesses including Bicycle Chain, Breadmans,  Carrburitos, CD Alley and Fitch Lumber along with four area residents brought more than 200 pounds of batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, computers, peripherals, speakers and other recyclables and reusable goods including clothing to this special dropoff event. The “Electro Junk Dump” was put on in conjunction with the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership (, the PTA Thrift Shop (, Kramden Institute ( and the Compass Center for Women and Families (  Annette Stone, Carrboro Economic Development Director, also provided outreach to Carrboro businesses.  Thanks to Larry Short for use of his parking lot.
One of the premiere ReUse agencies in Orange County, the PTA Thrift Store is busy rebuilding their headquarters at 103 Jones Ferry Road in Carrboro. They expect to complete the new facility by the end of summer 2013.
Americans still hesitant about recycling old cellphones
According to a survey by Lookout Mobile published in Waste and Recycling News, almost two out of three households in America – 62 percent to be exact – are hoarding their old cell phones instead of recycling them. Twenty-one percent of households have one phone they are holding on to; 21 percent have two; 9 percent have three; and a stunning 11 percent – 1 in 9 households – are hoarding four or more cellphones, the survey revealed. Lookout Mobile said another 33 million cellphones were expected to be sold this holiday season as consumers rush to upgrade to newer devices. Recycle phones at all solid waste convenience centers, Whole Foods, UNC Student Union or Compass Center at 207 Wilson St.
Can’t get enough trash talk?  Listen to us live on WCOM 103.5FM Radio Free Association usually the first Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with host James Coley and subscribe to our free Solid Waste e-newsletter at
Reminder: The Orange County Landfill will close in 161 days.
Blair Pollock is the Solid Waste Planner with Orange County Solid Waste Management.