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Chatham’s recycling program wins top recycling award in the Carolinas

Posted Sunday, April 29, 2012

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Pittsboro, NC - Chatham County’s Solid Waste and Recycling Division received the 2012 Outstanding Rural Recycling Program Award from the Carolina Recycling Association, which recognized just one rural program in North Carolina or South Carolina for its efforts in 2011. The Chatham County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution of congratulations at its meeting on April 16.

“We are very pleased to have the county recognized for its recycling efforts, which are expanding and evolving every year,” said Commissioner Chairman Brian Bock. “Increased recycling and reuse saves money for all involved and also creates more jobs in industries dependent on recycled goods.”

The Carolina Recycling Association cited several components of Chatham County’s recycling efforts in its award summary, including its 12 Collection Centers located around the county that accept over 15 different materials for recycling, a Swap Shop to promote reuse of a wide range of items, and free recycling drop-off for small businesses at the division’s main office.

The five criteria for the award are: focus on rural program development, demonstrated growth and innovation, wide range of services, local government support, and leadership in public service.

“We had major activities in all five areas,” said Dan LaMontagne, director of Environmental Quality, who oversees the division. “It has been a very busy and rewarding period for our division. We even changed our name from Waste Management to Solid Waste and Recycling to better reflect our role.”

LaMontagne credited community education and outreach to promote recycling as a major factor in the award. “We continue to distribute information through mail and email, but in the past two years we have expanded our website resources and we also are using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to reach more people.”

A major goal of the educational effort is to help people understand that recycling creates jobs for people in the county and the region and how much money is saved by recycling compared to sending trash to a landfill.

Each year, the Collection Centers serve approximately 25,000 households in the county, or an estimated 600,000 annual visits by county residents who have a current solid waste decal. Four centers are open seven days a week, while eight are open every day but Wednesday.

In 2011, Chatham County added electronics weighing less than 50 pounds, household batteries, and cooking oil as items that can be recycled at every Collection Center. “We are constantly evaluating new options for recycling, based on local markets and demand, as well as logistics,” LaMontagne said.

The award applauded the county’s permanent Household Hazardous Waste facility, which is open to the public nine times a year. LaMontagne said, “It is unusual for a rural county to offer more than one or two opportunities each year for household hazardous waste. We have added batteries, latex paint, and fluorescent lights to the list of items that are recycled on hazardous waste days.”

The county hosted its first Earth Day event in 2011 in partnership with Central Carolina Community College and Chatham Conservation Partnership. The event gave residents and businesses information on the many ways they can reuse, recycle and compost waste, and reduce litter.

The Carolina Recycling Association’s award also considers support from local government officials. Besides the county commissioners’ support for Earth Day, the award noted their adoption of a Construction and Demolition Recycling Ordinance, which has helped ensure more building materials are being returned to the economy through recycling instead of being sent to landfills.

“It is very rewarding to see this division recognized for its hard work and innovation of the past few years,” said Chatham County Manager Charlie Horne. “No question that it is well deserved.”

To learn about all the comprehensive programs and services provided by the Solid Waste & Recycling Division, visit or call (919) 542-5516.

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