New recycling law: No more plastic bottles in landfills

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, October 6, 2009

State officials say that requiring these materials to be recycled will help increase the state&squo;s recyling economy. North Carolina recovers only one out of five plastic bottles generated in the state, even though the state has some of the largest processors of the recyclable materials.

The newest ban was created to increase the recovery of plastic bottles and to meet the state&squo;s growing demand for the materials.

According to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), several North Carolina re-manufacturers, which make products out of recyclable materials, are operating at well under capacity because not enough materials are being recycled, especially plastic bottles.

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Examples include a Fayetteville facility being built now called Clare Path, which will have the capacity to use 280 million pounds of polyethylene terephthalate (PET #1) bottles annually.

In 2007-08, Polk County ranked 63rd of the state&squo;s 100 counties in per capita plastic bottle recovery, according to statistics from the DENR. Polk&39;s 1.93 lbs. per capita is based on a population of 19,040. The top plastic bottle recyling area of Orange County recycled 29.42 lbs. per capita, based on a population of 127,344.

Polk compared poorly with the nearby counties of McDowell, which ranked 23rd out of 100 counties&bsp; at 5.79 lbs., Rutherford, ranked 32nd at 4.65 lbs, Henderson, ranked 35th at 4.33 lbs. and Buncombe, ranked 36th at 4.10 lbs.

Polk County commissioner and county recycling board member Cindy Walker says people should remember there are three &dquo;R&squo;s&dquo; in the chasing arrows of the recycling logo.

&dquo;If we reduce our materials, we don&squo;t have to figure out what to do with them in the first place,&dquo; Walker says. &dquo;We can drink our coffee out of refillable mugs, our water out of refillable bottles, we can buy in bulk and reduce our packaging.&bsp; We can print double-sided.&dquo;

Polk County Solid Waste Director Neal Hall says the new law is exciting for recycling because it will force people to recycle some things, and while they are at it they will most likely recycle everything possible.

The Polk County transfer station recycling center currently recycles approximately 350 tons per year of supermarket recycling. Hall is hoping that number will increase greatly because of the new law. The tonnage at the county recycling center does not include recycling from the Town of Columbus, which has its own center, nor private contracting recycling within the county or the City of Saluda.

Hall says enforcement will be determined by the state and in the future could be handled by counties or towns more locally. Hall says people should remember, though, that the county transfer station is already required by the state to inspect one percent of the trash and make record of what is found. Hall says often there is a name in that trash and if it&squo;s not compliant the state will be notified and enforcement could result.

Mark Byington of the Polk County Recycling Advisory Board urges people to reduce the use of plastic bottles by not drinking bottled water.

&dquo;Save your cash ($100 billion dollars are spent by consumers every year on bottled water),&dquo; Byington says, &dquo;buy a faucet filter (bottled water is 1900 times more expensive than tap water), and save our planet (each year, over 24 billion water bottles end up in landfills). Recycle plastic bottles you do use. It&squo;s not just a reasonable thing to do. In North Carolina, it&squo;s the law.&dquo;

The transfer station materials go to American Recycling on White Horse Road in Greenville, S.C. Hall says depending on what is selling at the time, Polk County&squo;s recycling is mixed with other and sold. For example, American Recycling at one point sent paper to make Whitman Sampler candy packaging and right now plastics are selling to make fencing or potting materials.

In general, paper becomes new paper, hydro mulch, insulation and cat litter. Glass becomes new glass, countertops and glassphalt (glass bottles and steel cans may be recycled indefinitely), Walker explains. Plastic bottles become new bottles, park benches, decking, and fiberfill for carpets, sleeping bags, and jackets. Steel becomes new cans, bicycles and bridges. It is possible for an aluminum can to be recycled and back on the shelf in six weeks.&bsp; According to &dquo;Made in NC,&dquo; a NCDENR publication, the recycling industry in North Carolina employs more than 11,000 North Carolinians. Buying recycled content items helps to &dquo;close the loop&dquo; and fuel this industry, say officials.

Roulettei Gildersleeve of the Polk County Recycling Board reminds people that according to Scott Mouw, state recycling director, more than 70,000 tons of plastic ends up in North Carolina landfills every year.

&dquo;This law will help all of us do a better job of recovering this plastic. Also covered in this law are used oil filters, wooden pallets, and oyster shells,&dquo; Gildersleeve says.

Aluminum cans have been banned from landfills in North Carolina since 1994.