State, city recycling programs growing

Published 1:21 am Wednesday, May 1, 2013

North Carolina, for the second year in a row, set a record for the lowest solid-waste disposal rate since measurement of tonnage deposited in landfills began in 1991, according to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

While Pitt County ranked first in total public recycling (per-capita recovery) at 763.2 pounds a person and first in common household recyclables (per-capita recovery) at 340.7 pounds a person, Beaufort County ranked 74th and 63rd, respectively, in those two categories. The state’s record-breaking disposal rates are helped by local government recycling programs.

The momentum of local recycling programs is helping suppress the state’s dependence on solid-waste landfills, said Scott Morrow, the state’s recycling coordinator.

Washington’s recycling program is about 25 years old. It started as a community initiative, with the first recycling drop-off site at the former Kmart shopping center on West 15th Street.

The city’s recycling efforts continue to improve, said Allen Lewis, the city’s public-works director, on Tuesday.

“From ’04 to ’06, we averaged about 205 tons of recycling a year at a cost savings of about $4,100. That’s because the county pays us a landfill avoidance fee of $20 per ton,” Lewis said.

From 2006 through 2007, the city averaged about 240 tons of recycling a year, resulting in cost savings of about $4,800, Lewis said. During ’08 and ’09, that average jumped to about 345 tons per year, with a cost saving of about $6,900 a year, he said. In 2010, the city reached 522 tons of recycling, climbing to 687 tons in 2011. In 2012, the city handled 683 tons of recyclables.

Lewis attributes the requirement (imposed by the state several years ago) for businesses that have alcohol permits to recycle bottles and cans and the distribution by the city to city residents of roll-out carts specifically for recyclables as key factors in the growth of the city’s recycling program.

“It’s not really cost efficient, but it’s the right thing to do. I don’t see it being cost efficient for some time. The economy’s really going to have to turn around before it gets to that point,” Lewis said.

In a press release, DENR Secretary John E. Skvarla III said, “We are pleased to see the progress that municipal and county recycling programs are making. Recyclable commodities are increasingly important feedstocks for North Carolina manufacturers, and community collection services are a vital part of the material supply chain.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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