Orange County

Carrboro throwing out a lot of food; why it’s a problem

The study found the town of carrboro could stand to make significant improvements in the reduction of food waste by encouraging composting and commercial food-waste diversion.
The study found the town of carrboro could stand to make significant improvements in the reduction of food waste by encouraging composting and commercial food-waste diversion. AP

Residents are “overwhelmingly pleased” with Carrboro’s garbage service, but the town needs to improve yard-waste collection and take a closer look at how much food is being thrown out.

Garbage pickup earned a 92 percent approval rating in a recent town survey, compared to just 66 percent who approved of the town’s yard-waste collection.

Consultant Mitch Kessler told the Board of Aldermen this month that yard waste is the most expensive collection service, costing $289 per ton. Curbside garbage pickup, by comparison, costs just $100 per ton, in line with national averages.

“It costs about the same to collect the 859 tons of yard waste as it does to collect 2,547 tons of garbage,” Kessler told the board. “We’re spending a lot of money in the Town of Carrboro on yard waste.”

He suggested the town rethink the procedures for yard-waste pickup, including reducing routes, reassessing schedules, and limiting how yard waste can be left at the curb.

The study found Carrboro residents recycle more than average. Across the country, Kessler said about 25 percent of what goes in the trash is actually recyclable, but in Carrboro, only about 16 percent of recyclables heads to landfills.

The study found the town could stand to make significant improvements in the reduction of food waste.

“Food waste was 28 percent – that’s huge,” said Kessler. “The average is 13 percent.”

Once compostable paper waste is taken into account, Kessler estimated the town could compost up to 44 percent of what now gets thrown away.

He recommended town officials consider ways to encourage backyard composting and, down the road, explore a commercial food-waste diversion program.

Board members expressed support for the recommendations, though some, including Damon Seils, noted it may be harder to implement changes in a town with many apartment complexes and a high proportion of renters.

“I don’t have a backyard, so I’m not going to be doing backyard composting,” Seils said.

In other business

Also this month, the board:

▪ voted 5-1 to accept a grant of $46,371 from the U.S. Department of Justice to purchase body worn cameras for the Carrboro Police Department. Alderman Sammy Slade cast the lone no vote to protest recent changes to state law that make it harder to release footage from law enforcement body cameras to the public. In addition to the grant money, the town will allocate $37,767 to purchase 32 cameras and pay for data storage.

▪ voted unanimously to approve traffic calming tables to slow drivers along Tallyho Trail. Three tables will be constructed on the western portion of the road. A fourth could possibly be added to the eastern side once construction on the Rogers Road sewer line, which will run though the area, is complete.

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