Tomorrow’s Town Council workshop meeting, which convenes at 9 a.m. in the Kern Pitts Center, will present property owners and residents with their first opportunity to address the recycling crisis that has unfolded during the past three months.
As a Bay Disposal & Recycling representative made clear at the Council’s Jan. 7 meeting, the recyclables that residents have been putting out curbside for pickup since Dec. 10 have not been recycled; they have been taken to a waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth, Va., where they have been incinerated.
That the Town has not informed the public on the Town website and/or in the Town newsletter about this significant development is more than an oversight. The Town has failed to fully disclose the situation and once again fueled public concerns about a lack of transparency in governmental affairs.
According to a Beacon source, Mayor Tom Bennett informed SSCA members gathered Jan. 13 for the civic association’s general membership meeting that the Town is not planning to do anything to save the recycling program in Southern Shores, which was the first municipality on the Outer Banks to offer curbside recycling.
Although the Town Council has not yet voted on renegotiating its “recycling” contract with Bay Disposal, Mayor Bennett indicated that the Town will continue to offer curbside pickup of garbage and other items that the collector will transport to Wheelabrator in Portsmouth for incineration. Trash burning at energy plants has been implicated in both climate change and air pollution.
Mayor Bennett reportedly cited a lack of staff resources and funding for the reasons why the Town is not trying to save recycling in Southern Shores.
Is this what the other Town Council members want? Or has this inaction been decreed by mayoral fiat? What about the public’s opinion? What does the Southern Shores public want? And why hasn’t the Town reached out to the public through its website or newsletter?
The latest Town newsletter, issued Jan. 17, showed graphics of which items are recyclable, and which are not, without informing the public that Bay Disposal no longer takes Southern Shores’ curbside loads to a recycling processing center!
Mayor Bennett reportedly mentioned the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center at 4190 Bob Perry Road in Kitty Hawk as an option for Southern Shores recyclables. The Beacon has done the same, but is now concerned that the collector for this center is also Bay Disposal, which is hauling recyclables to Wheelabrator, not to a recycling processing center. [UPDATE: It is, indeed. See below.]
KITTY HAWK/DARE COUNTY RECYCLING CENTER
According to the Kitty Hawk town website, Outer Banks Hauling handles Kitty Hawk’s subscription curbside recycling. Outer Banks Hauling is another name for Bay Disposal. The Beacon tried to reach Kitty Hawk Public Works Director Willie Midgett and Dare County Sanitation and Recycle Supervisor David Overton by telephone this morning, but was unsuccessful—perhaps because of the holiday. [UDATE below.]
Undeterred, we traveled to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center to see the operation up-close and to speak with the attendant on duty. He was not given a holiday. The center is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday morning. See https://www.kittyhawknc.gov/departments-and-services/public-works/recycling/.
The recycling center separates glass and corrugated cardboard from the rest of the recycling it accepts, which is commingled in a single stream. Lavelle Jenkins, the very friendly and helpful part-time employee who assisted me, said that the county picks up the glass and the cardboard, and that the single-stream recyclables end up at Bay Disposal’s site in Currituck County.
[UPDATE 2 p.m.:] Mr. Midgett confirmed in a telephone call what Mr. Jenkins had said. Kitty Hawk will continue to have Bay Disposal pick up its single-stream recycling “as long as it does not go to a landfill,” Mr. Midgett said.
According to the Kitty Hawk Public Works Director, Dare County crushes the glass it collects and reuses it in road projects. The County bundles the cardboard it collects, he said, and sells it.
Kitty Hawk’s curbside recycling is strictly subscription-only, for which Bay Disposal charges $12.45 per month. Mr. Midgett said that town residents were given the option of “mandatory recycling,” but “it did not fly.”
In contrast to Kitty Hawk, the Town of Duck has a contract for residential and commercial curbside recycling with TFC Recycling, the Hampton Roads-based company with which Southern Shores previously did business. It is TFC Recycling that has refused to accept loads from Bay Disposal for processing at its recycling plant.
If the Town ceases to do business with Bay Disposal, there will be ample funds available to dedicate to searching for a solution to the recycling crisis. In FY 2019-20, the Town allocated $156,200 for “recycling collection,” just as it had done in FY 2018-19, the first year of its contract with Bay Disposal In FY 2017-28, the budgeted amount for collection was $139,849; in FY 2016-17, it was $134,594. (Former Town Manager Peter Rascoe touted a costs saving when he switched collection companies.)
Options exist for continued recycling in Southern Shores, and they should not be solely up to the “grass roots” to research and explore.
The calls The Beacon made today, along with calls to the Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Nags Head town managers, and the N.C. and Va. departments of environmental quality, can be easily made by Town staff without undue expense. What’s more, Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett is more likely to get a callback from these governmental employees than a blogger/reporter is.
You may access the agenda for tomorrow’s workshop here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2020-01-21.pdf.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/20/20