What We Should Do About Solid Waste

This recycling issue has been under consideration by the commissioners for a full year now. We are no closer to a clear resolution than we were last April.

The lack of clear information conveyed to rural residents has resulted in people who are not even in the proposed recycling districts testifying and writing letters to the editor that the tax would be onerous and that hauling their recyclables down long driveways would be impractical. The county has not had anyone simply checking the addresses of citizens who have spoken at meetings to clarify if they live in the proposed district or not. The end result has been that neither the public nor the media really knows the extent of support or criticism for this proposal.

There are people living in dense neighborhoods that would be served who support the modest tax and would like the service. There are also people in the districts that live down long driveways and would not use the service. Generally they support recycling and haul their recycling to the recycling centers, along with their other household trash.

The illogical state policy that requires districts to be contiguous has forced us to create a district which has clusters of dense housing separated by stretches of scattered households. It is in these connecting zones of scattered households that folks have a practical reason to not use the service. So the whole issue is muddied in several ways.

None of this enormous investment of time and money to explore this district tax option would have been necessary if the commissioners had simply opted to keep the 3-R fee of $38 per household. This worked very well until the county lawyer offered his opinion that, based on a case involving Cabarrus County, the county might face a legal challenge on the fee. It is unclear that his opinion merited scrapping the 3-R fee.

I believe we should reinstate the fee and concentrate our efforts on finally, after decades of drifting on the solid waste issue, adopt a comprehensive plan that will simplify many decisions such as these.

It is essential that Orange County have its own transfer station and recycling transfer station at the same location. This will end the annual wasted cost of $1 million - and rising - that the governments and UNC now collectively pay to truck our waste to transfer stations in Durham County.  Excess pollution will be curbed. This also will allow us to collect both household waste and recyclables in the future, which is the only practical and cost-effective way to implement collection.

The most cost-effective and logical location is near I-40 and near the Chapel Hill-Carrboro urban zone which generates most of the solid waste. There is land next to the Chapel Hill Town Operations Center which would work very well. An access road could be built on the edge of the park and ride lot on Eubanks Road which would keep traffic off of Millhouse Road. It would also be about a mile away from the Rogers Road neighborhood which is well beyond the impact range of a facility like a transfer station.

It’s time to stop wasting money on consultants or hiding behind yet another task force. Our very competent solid waste staff knows how to implement this plan. We have not lacked information on how to resolve this twenty year old problem, we have only lacked leadership.






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