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Chatham County should not be in the business of importing trash

By Stephanie Talbott
Posted Wednesday, January 5, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - I would like to add some comments regarding the outrageous possibility that our county would become a site for a Regional landfill. Of all the business opportunities to attract, I find it appalling we could be in the business of importing trash.

A review of our waste issues can be reviewed in the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management 10 Year Plan, March 2009; located on this site, along with the landfill feasibility study.

Just a quick quantification (and oversimplification)of the issues: The total annual waste from 2008-2009 sent to a transfer station to Sampson Co. Landfill was 24,426 tons. The cost of transferring our waste out of county is becoming prohibitive.

Attempts have been made to reduce our waste, with a goal of waste reduction by 30% and by June 2001. This goal was exceeded in fiscal years 2000-2002 by a waste reduction of 35-38%. Since that time, waste reduction has decreased (indicating increased production of waste). Additionally, the recycling rate of the County is decreasing. The Towns of Pittsboro and Siler City recycling participation rate has dropped dramatically. There is no reason or understanding why this has happened. Tons of Recycling in the county peaked at 3,458 tons in 2002 than steadily decreased to 2,638 tons in 2008. (no data beyond 2008)

The plan reviews options for decreasing waste, landfill options, alternatives to a landfill, etc., with the overall summary that a Regional landfill by which the county gets paid to accept out-of-county trash would be more financially feasible.

Perhaps other states have models of waste management that work well, and for which we could learn of better alternatives (beyond converting our county into a dump). For example, in the State of Maine, the recycling rate for 2009 was 38%. Public recycling services have expanded to serve over 98% of Maine's population. The Maine Resource Recovery Association offers compost bins, kitchen collection "pails", hand compost turners and rain barrels for sale, in bulk quantities, at reduced prices. (For more information visit http://www.mrra.net)

In 2009 it was calculated that Maine residents and businesses generated just over 1.7 million tons of trash - which amounts to about 7.3 pounds of garbage produced by each person each day. This is nearly 2,600 pounds of trash per person per year! Maine's solid waste management hierarchy is a priority list of how we should appropriately

deal with all of this waste, with the goal of reducing the amount of waste needing to be landfilled. This hierarchy was adopted by the Maine Legislature in 1989, and waste management to proceed in the following order:
1. Reduction; eliminate unnecessary packaging, single use bags, etc.
2. Reuse, ie, swap shops, online free stuff, etc.
3. Recycle,
3. Compost: veggie scraps, leaves, grass clippings, etc.. Create nutritious soil material
4. Waste to Energy; combusting waste at very high temperatures to generate steam to run turbines for scrubbers, filters and other pollution control equipment. (Nearly 35% of Maine's garbage was combusted in 2005)
5. Landfill, as a last resort.
Reference: http://www.state.me.us/spo/recycle/

Portland Maine residents can discard their trash in purchased blue bags. ($1 small, $2 large). Other municipalities have other color bags, priced according to their town budgets to pay for pick-up. This is a "pay to throw" system. Those who don't want to reuse, recycle, compost can throw trash in the bag, but the more trash they make, the more bags they need, and the more they pay.

Perhaps similar processes could exist in Chatham County, including some fee for bags taken directly to area collection centers.

I do hope the citizens and leaders in Chatham County take time and plan carefully for responsible management of our waste without selling off the county as a Regional dump. Since Randolph county is planning a Regional landfill and would need “customers†to buy in to support such an endeavor, perhaps Chatham County could be a good neighbor and transfer “last resort†waste to Randolph County's regional facility, but also do a much better job in waste reduction, recycling, reuse, composting, and developing options to convert waste to energy. Some of the costs for development of such programs could be born by a "pay-to-throw" system, since ultimately the responsibility for our waste lies with all of us producing the waste.


 
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Chatham County should not be in the business of importing trash
 
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