Rolling out easier recycling

Oct. 27, 2013 @ 04:48 PM

Across the state of North Carolina, we generate a lot of trash. A good bit of it, however, need not be trucked to a landfill.

Consider these statistics from the N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance website:

-- North Carolinians throw away more than $74,072,000 in aluminum cans each year.

Recycling an aluminum can saves 95 percent of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from virgin materials.

-- North Carolina throws away enough glass each year to fill up more than 11,800 tractor-trailers. If you put those tractor-trailers end to end they’d stretch from Asheville to Greensboro.

-- North Carolinians throw away more than $164,375,460 in mixed paper each year.

Each year, North Carolina throws away enough potentially recyclable paper to fill more than 1,000 soccer fields three feet deep or to fill 1,558 football fields three feet deep.

In Durham, we are a community that by and large is committed to recycling. But one thing we know is that the easier it is to recycle, the more likely people are to do it.

We want to do the right thing – but in our busyness or perhaps inertia we’ll take the path of least resistance.

That’s why it is such welcome news the Durham County is seriously studying the prospect of following the city’s lead in giving residents large roll-out carts instead of small bins for their recyclables. As we’ve become better about recycling, many residents find themselves rolling trash carts with relatively little in them and schlepping heavy, overloaded 18-gallon recycling bins by hand.

The county today is launching a pilot program, with about 2,000 residents on the Monday and Tuesday recycling pick-up routes in the unincorporated areas of the county getting the 95-gallon roll-out bins.

Over the next 18 months, county officials will collect data on usage. They are hoping for a considerable increase in the current participation rate – about one in three county households recycles – and volume. The county now averages about 96 tons of recyclables each month.

“When Durham County’s unincorporated residential recycling program began in the early 1980s, every-other-week collection with 18-gallon bins was more than sufficient to capture all the material residents were able to recycle,” Chrissie Koroivui, the county’s waste reduction supervisor, wrote in The Durham Herald section Sunday.

“Advances in the recycling industry have made it so that we can recycle more items than ever before, and increased environmental awareness among citizens has more people wanting to recycle all of those additional items,” she wrote.

For the first 2,000 residents, that will be easier starting this week. 

We hope they’ll embrace the new possibilities – and that all residents will take this expansion as a reminder of the value in recycling as much of our waste as possible, ensuring longer life of our expensive landfills and more wisely using the finite resources of our planet.