The Southern Shores Town Council is expected to approve a modest budget amendment tomorrow (Tues., Feb. 4) that indicates its interest in continuing to work with curbside recycling collector Bay Disposal & Recycling, but does not signal a long-term commitment to the beleaguered contractor.
The Council meets tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. in the Kern Pitts Center for its regular monthly meeting. See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2020-02-04.pdf.
Joshua Smaltz, Bay Disposal’s Outer Banks Site Manager, first appeared before the Town Council at its December meeting to request an increase in the monthly per-home collection rate that the Town now pays under a three-year service contract, which expires June 30, 2021.
Mr. Schmaltz sought an increase from $5.42 per home to $7.40 per home, citing steep increases in the per-ton rates that Bay Disposal has been paying for processing.
According to the contract, which Mr. Smaltz and former Town Manager Peter Rascoe signed, there are 2,394 homes in Southern Shores. (You will find the contract in the meeting packet for the Council’s Jan. 7 meeting, not for tomorrow’s meeting. Bay Disposal also handles Southern Shores’ garbage collection.)
Before the Council had a chance to respond to Mr. Smaltz’s request, he notified the Town that the southeastern Virginia recycling processing center (also called a material recovery facility) that Bay Disposal had been using had refused to accept any more of its curbside recyclables. Since mid-December, therefore, Bay Disposal has been transporting Southern Shores’ recyclables, as well as the recyclables it picks up in other Dare County towns, to Wheelabrator, a waste-energy plant in Portsmouth that incinerates them.
No recycling, as such, occurs at Wheelabrator, and concerns have been raised about the air pollution associated with the facility’s incineration, especially when it burns plastics.
See The Beacon on 12/7/19, 1/9/20, and 1/18/20 for background.
The Council’s budget amendment calls for a transfer of $16,780 from the Town’s unassigned fund balance to the sanitation budget in order to cover increased recycling pickup expenses. There is no indication, however, in either the agenda or in the online meeting packet, what service-rate increase a Council majority apparently has approved and what service time period this increase is intended to cover.
The Beacon trusts that the Council will enlighten the public about its deliberations and decision-making when it takes up the amendment tomorrow. The Jan. 31 Town newsletter reports only that the Council will consider at tomorrow’s meeting whether to allow Bay Disposal to continue transporting town recyclables to Wheelabrator “until market conditions improve or other options are available.”
Not mentioned in this newsletter report is the fact that the State of North Carolina has a say in that decision.
In January, Mr. Schmaltz shared with the Council his concern about Bay Disposal obtaining the requisite permitting from Virginia to allow the Powell’s Point-based company to continue transporting product to Wheelabrator. He did not bring up permitting by North Carolina.
According to a Jan. 15 letter from an official with the Division of Waste Management (DWM) within the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the State of North Carolina will allow Bay Disposal to transport recyclables to Wheelabrator “as a temporary measure and will revisit this decision in three months.” This letter is included in tomorrow’s meeting packet.
In it, Sherri C. Stanley, a permitting official in the Solid Waste Section of the N.C. DWM, informs county and town officials that do business with Bay Disposal—including Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett—of the Section’s understanding that “Wheelabrator recovers both ferrous and non-ferrous metals at their facility and that other materials are converted to electricity for the local power grid and steam for the Navy Shipyard.”
Ms. Stanley describes this arrangement as “not the ideal situation for management of collected recyclables.”
The Beacon agrees. We asked the Town Council at its Jan. 21 workshop to “think outside the box” in coming up with ways to perpetuate true recycling in Southern Shores, and we would like to believe that some members, as well as Mr. Haskett, are trying.
Not only was Southern Shores the first town on the Outer Banks to initiate curbside recycling, but Dare County leads the state in recycling the most household paper and container materials per capita, according to a 2018 report by the Dept. of Environmental Quality. The DEQ reports that the average Dare County household recycled about 2.56 tons in 2017.
In explaining its leadership, Dare County Solid Waste Supervisor Douglas Huff is quoted in press accounts two years ago as crediting “public outreach efforts” and “tourists from the North, where recycling is more of a common habit.” (A former “tourist from the North,” I have ceased my so-called curbside “recycling,” and am doing the necessary schlepping.)
That the Outer Banks is a fragile environment that Dare County property owners should protect also should be a driver for clean recycling.
THE DARE COUNTY RECYCLING ENTERPRISE
After The Beacon visited the joint recycling venture between Dare County and Kitty Hawk, located at 4190 Bob Perry Road, and talked with the Kitty Hawk public works director (as previously reported), we approached Dare County Sanitation and Recycle Supervisor David Overton, about the possibility of a joint venture between the county and Southern Shores. (For info about the Kitty Hawk recycling center, see https://www.kittyhawknc.gov/departments-and-services/public-works/recycling/.)
We had been informed by Rod McCaughey, former president of the Southern Shores Civic Assn., that the SSCA board and membership were interested in exploring recycling options, in light of the current crisis, so we thought contacting the county was worth a shot.
Mayor Tom Bennett reportedly told the SSCA at its January general membership meeting that the Town was not going to invest staff time and money in new recycling options.
What Mr. Overton told us was uplifting. Dare County does not offer curbside recycling, but it does operate four recycling disposal sites—including a main center in Manteo—that anyone can use at no charge. Even more gratifying: It is truly recycling the materials that it receives, locally and in nearby states. See https://www.darenc.com/departments/public-works/recycling.
The county appears to have a thriving recycling business. Where, we asked Mr. Overton, do the collected recyclables go? His answers were:
Paper and cardboard: They are compacted and taken to Virginia for recycling.
Metals and aluminum: The county has a buyer in Wanchese.
Plastic: These products, he said, “end up in Tennessee.”
Glass: This is the best component of its program. The county crushes glass in its own compactor—which it acquired in 2008, making it the first N.C. county to have such equipment—and makes it available, free of charge, to anyone who wants it.
And who wants it? According to Mr. Overton, the demand is great for “multiple uses” and “endless possibilities.” People use crushed glass for road construction, driveway surfaces, and landscaping projects, as well as for candles, lamps, stained-glass windows, jewelry, and other art objects.
Crushed glass makes a decorative mulch that can be used around potted plants or in outside landscaping. The Kill Devil Hills Buildings and Grounds Division is using recycled glass mulch around the town’s main building at 102 Town Hall Drive. (See https://www.kdhnc.com/564/Recycled-Glass-Mulch.)
All of the beer and wine bottles that Dare County tourists and residents go through do not have to end up in landfills or at Wheelabrator.
The glass mulch is safe. You can walk barefoot on the mulch without being cut. You also can hold it in your hands without fear of injury.
Southern Shores residents currently can take their clean glass recyclables to the Dare County-Kitty Hawk recycling center and be assured that the county will pick them up. The same is true of corrugated cardboard. But the single-stream recycling that you deposit at the Kitty Hawk center will be picked up by Bay Disposal, which is transporting all product to Wheelabrator, until further notice.
You can bring unsorted single-stream recycling to the Manteo recycling center, which is located at 1018 Driftwood Drive. The sorting will be done for you.
Kitty Hawk, unlike Southern Shores, does not have what is known as “mandatory” curbside recycling. Its curbside recycling is “voluntary,” by monthly subscription only, pursuant to a town contract with Bay Disposal. Also unlike Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk has a garbage-collection contract with the county.
Until July 1, 2018, when Mr. Rascoe contracted with Bay Disposal to pick up Southern Shores’ garbage, Dare County serviced Southern Shores, too.
I, personally, recall Mr. Rascoe’s decision not to renew the contract with Dare County as being controversial and not well-received by many residents, who wanted the relationship with the county to continue. Cost-cutting was certainly mentioned as a reason, but I have not delved into videotapes of 2018 meetings to probe the decision further.
According to Mr. Overton, the Town informed the county that it was not “happy with our service.”
That is also what Mr. Rascoe and Finance Officer Bonnie Swain told The Beacon in an interview about the FY 2018-19 budget regarding TFC Recycling’s curbside service. Customers were not satisfied, they said. The Town chose not to renew its recycling contract with the southeastern Virginia-based company at the same time that it parted ways with Dare County.
The Beacon asked Mr. Overton: How does Southern Shores get in on what Dare County is doing with recycling? Why couldn’t we have a joint-venture recycling center in our town?
If the Town had an existing garbage-collection contract with Dare County, it would be fairly simple to explore an expansion of services. Forging an arrangement now, in the absence of one, would require initiation of a discussion between Mr. Haskett and Dare County Manager/Attorney Bobby Outten. The Beacon is hopeful that the SSCA can play a role in making that happen.
Schlepping recyclables to a transfer center, rather than having them picked up curbside, is not convenient, but neither is paying money to a purported recycling collector to dispose of recyclables outside of the recycling-processing chain.
Southern Shores has always been in the vanguard on environmental issues. We hope it will be again.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/3/20