County continues recycling

MOREHEAD CITY - The recycling system across the U.S. is faltering, according to a report from Environment N.C., but in Carteret County, the public works director says recycling efforts are still going strong.

ENC issued its report, The State of Recycling in North Carolina, Nov. 14. According to the document, local governments across the country have been ending their curbside recycling programs.

ENC said in its report this is due to a combination of East Asian restrictions on recyclables coming in from the U.S. and America’s dependency on exporting recyclables.

“The United States failed to curb the rise of plastic, failed to build domestic demand for recycled material and failed to ensure that product designers considered the end life of their products,” ENC says.

According to the organization’s website, ENC is a citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. The nonprofit works to raise awareness of environmental issues and promote solutions.

While the U.S. at large is struggling with its recycling system, in Carteret County efforts continue. County General Services and Public Works Director Tony Cahoon said county staff continues to collect recyclable materials daily at 11 solid waste convenience sites.

“We also have recycle collections at county facilities,” Mr. Cahoon said, “such as our parks, beach accesses and all county buildings…We promote recycling and our contractor, Waste Industries, does an excellent job with the recycle program promotions.”

Mr. Cahoon said in fiscal year 2017-18, 1,687 tons of recyclables were collected, and 2,300 tons were collected in fiscal year 2018-19. The recyclable materials collected include:

•    Newspapers

•    White goods

•    Steel and aluminum cans

•    Plastic bottles

•    Glass bottles

•    Electronics

•    Other plastics

•    Steel and other metals

According to the ENC report, throughout North Carolina as a whole the recycling system has been declining since 2017. The nonprofit says it appears this is due to municipalities scaling back on the types of recyclables they accept.

“North Carolina’s recycling rate may be low, but the state has previous success in reducing the overall amount of waste it generates, partly thanks to local government programs that have since declined,” ENC says.

To address the issue of waste, the organization suggests considering measures outside of recycling.

“It’s important to remember that recycling is only our third-best option,” the nonprofit says. “While recycling reduces our need to produce from virgin materials, it’s also a manufacturing process that requires the use of water, energy and other natural resources. For that reason, we need to redesign our systems to reduce and reuse, first and foremost.”

ENC recommends the following policies to address waste problems:

•    Ban unnecessary single-use plastics, such as plastic bags and polystyrene foam food containers.

•    Require unnecessary single-use plastic accessories like straws, utensils and condiment packets to be given only when customers request them.

•    Oppose the creation of new plact production infrastructure.

•    Enact “pay as you throw” programs that charge consumers less if they throw out less trash.

•    Pass “right to repair” laws giving consumer and independent repair shops the ability to fix things when they break.

•    Encourage the use of reusable bags and bottles through customer rebates.

•    Require sit-down restaurants to use reusable plates and foodware.

•    Pass extended producer responsibility laws that make manufacturers responsible for dealing with the waste their products.

•    Expand curbside recycling and composting efforts.

•    Mandate new products contain a certain percentage of recycled material.

•    Ban food waste from landfills and encourage the creation of a comprehensive composting system.