The “temporary exemption” granted by the State Division of Waste Management to Southern Shores and other Dare County towns, enabling them to contract with Bay Disposal & Recycling to transport their recyclables to an incinerator in Virginia, is in effect only “through the end of March,” according to a spokesperson for the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
This exemption, according to Sandy Skolochenko, a community development specialist with DEQ’s Dept. of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service (“DEACS”), is viewed by the State as a “short-term solution.”
Asked by The Beacon if an extension of the extension is likely, Ms. Skolochenko said that “It may come to that if something else doesn’t materialize.”
N.C. law prohibits the disposal of plastics and aluminum cans in landfills, as well as in incinerators, Ms. Skolochenko said. (The Beacon published the actual wording of the statutes in its 2/10/20 report.) Enforcement of this ban can be rather lax, however, because it is through N.C. landfill and incinerator operators, who “should not accept these products,” she explained.
On Feb. 4, the Southern Shores Town Council unanimously approved amending the Town’s contract with Bay Disposal to give the Powells Point-based curbside recycling collector/hauler a per-home rate increase of $1.17 until June 30, in order for it to absorb its increased costs for transporting the Town’s recyclables to Wheelabrator, a waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth, Va. Wheelabrator burns the waste it receives, using it, in part, to generate renewable electricity for a utility.
The Council also approved giving Bay Disposal 20 more days than the current contract allows for it to “cure” any breach in the service arrangement, increasing the number from 10 days to 30 days.
Although the current contract runs through June 30, 2021, Council members agreed, in response to Councilman Matt Neal’s inquiry, that they would reevaluate the contract at the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year and possibly terminate it. (See The Beacon, 2/10/20.)
“We have been working very closely with Dare County, Currituck County, and local jurisidictions” Ms. Skolochenko told The Beacon, to come up with “long-term, mid-term, and short-term solutions . . . so recycling can go to market.” Unfortunately, Southern Shores has not been a party to these discussions. It has not actively pursued solutions with other towns, the county, or the DEQ.
Contrary to anecdotal reports heard at Town Council meetings, U.S. and overseas markets do exist for recyclables. The picture is not as bleak as some have implied
For all you need to know about recycling in North Carolina, see: https://deq.nc.gov/conservation/recycling.
To find recycling buyers in North Carolina, see: www.p2pays.org/dmrm/start.aspx.
For information about the Dept. of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service, see: https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/environmental-assistance-customer-service/about-deacs
The Beacon’s impression from accessing DEQ’s materials and speaking with Ms. Skolochenko is that the recycling industry in North Carolina is doing fine in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill and areas west of the Triangle.
In the east, Greenville, Jacksonville, and Wilmington each has a material recovery facility (MRF), which is the industry name for a recycling processing center. See https://deq.nc.gov/conservation/recycling/material-recovery-facilities.
One of the long-term solutions cited by Ms. Skolochenko, who deals with public recycling programs, recycling market development, and state grants to support local recycling, is the construction of a new MRF in Northeastern North Carolina. But this would take more than a year to achieve, she said.
“Also on the table,” she noted, is a revised arrangement with TFC Recycling in Virginia, which refused as of Dec. 12, 2019, to accept any further recyclables from Bay Disposal. TFC could agree to accept Dare County recyclables at an increased cost that the towns served by Bay Disposal would have the option of supporting, she said.
“Just throwing your hands up and canceling recycling is not going to be a popular option,” she said, urging Dare County residents to communicate their concerns to their local government and to the county.
Ms. Skolochenko described the TFC solution as short-term, a “four to six-month thing,” until a long-term solution is identified.
According to the DEACS specialist, recycling grant money is available through the State for local governments, including grants of up to $80,000 for transporting recyclables to recycling centers.
There also are national organizations, she added, that could provide grant funding to “partner on a solution.”
In response to The Beacon’s suggestions about transporting Southern Shores’ and other Dare County towns’ recyclables to a Northern Virginia recycling center or an MRF in Raleigh, Durham, or elsewhere in North Carolina, Ms. Skolochenko acknowledged that those options are possible, but cost calculations have not been done.
THE ‘WRAP’ ON NATIONWIDE PLASTICS RECYCLING
Do you remember the photograph of the three recycling bins in front of Food Lion, in the Marketplace, that The Beacon recently posted?
We have learned from the media contact for the Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP), a national initiative designed to make plastic film a commonly recycled material, that each participating retailer with a WRAP plastic-film drop-off bin—such as you see in front of our local supermarkets—manages the deposited recyclables itself.
Managers at the Harris Teeter in Kitty Hawk informed The Beacon that the company transports the plastics deposited in the bins in front of its store to its corporate headquarters in Matthews, N.C., where they are recycled. Matthews is in Mecklenberg County near Charlotte. According to Harris Teeter headquarters, the plastics are sent to Trex Co., Inc., which recycles them in decking products.
See Harris Teeter at https://www.harristeeter.com/recycling-packaging.
According to employees at the Food Lion, the recyclables deposited in bins in front of their store are picked up by Bay Disposal, which is transporting all of its loads to Wheelabrator to be incinerated. (The Beacon will confirm this with Food Lion’s manager as soon as possible.)
WRAP is a nationwide public awareness and outreach program sponsored by America’s Plastic Makers®, which is a trademark of the American Chemistry Council.
Currently, there are a reported 18,000 drop-off locations for plastic film in the United States and Canada. You may access a directory of these locations and learn more about WRAP at https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/recycling-bags-and-wraps/wrap-consumer-content/.
According to plasticfilmrecycling.org, which is the website for WRAP, plastic “film” is soft, flexible polyethylene (PE) packaging. It includes grocery, bread, zip-top, and dry cleaning bags, as well as wrap that is used around many products, such as napkins, bathroom tissue, diapers, and plastic plates. If this film is clean and dry, it may be recycled into other useful products.
Among the products recycled from plastic that plasticfilmrecycling.org cites are composite lumber used to make decks, benches, and playground sets, and small pellets that can be made into new bags, pallets, containers, crates, and pipe.
MIXED PAPER IS THE PRIMARY PROBLEM
While you may have been led to believe that plastic is the biggest problem in the struggling recycling industry, Ms. Skolochenko says the real elephant in the room is mixed paper. The vast majority of recyclables marketed in the United States and Canada are fiber products used to make paper.
Plummeting mixed-paper values have been key to the current economic struggles in the recycling industry. It is paper that moves the price of whatever a recycling processor can pay or needs to charge a municipality for its service, industry sources say.
There is a U.S. market for mixed paper, DEACS’s Ms. Skolochenko said, but it has to be “very clean to be attractive to a buyer.”
What is mixed paper? It is any paper product that is not corrugated cardboard or newspaper, such as a telephone book, a magazine, mail, office paper, and paperboard packaging. (Corrugated cardboard has three layers of paper: the inside and outside liners and fluting with a ruffled shape that is between the two liners.)
According to online industry sources, the recycling import restrictions imposed in January 2018 by China heavily affected the mixed-paper market.
Resource Recycling, Inc., which has reported on the recycling industry for nearly 30 years, reports that mixed-paper prices fell from levels “that once topped $100 per ton to zero or negative values in some regions of North America.” (See https://www.resource-recycling.com/recycling.)
According to a November 2019 Resource Recycling article, mixed paper has two main end markets in the United States: Recycled paperboard claims 39 percent of the market share, and another 37 percent goes into containerboard. The tissue market takes 19 percent, and the remaining 5 percent goes into construction applications and other paper product grades.
Because of China’s withdrawal, the recycling market for mixed paper is changing and could rebound, those in the industry say. India has become the current largest buyer of U.S. recovered fiber.
According to Shailesh Gothal of Gemini Corporation, who spoke at the 2019 Resource Recycling Conference and Trade Show in New Orleans last year, India has about 700 paper mills, 65 percent of which are dependent on imported recovered fiber.
The Gemini Corporation is a global broker of recyclables. Mr. Gothal said India is poised to become an even stronger market for recovered fiber from the United States.
According to Ms. Skolochenko, the emphasis in the States is on improving the mixed paper product, which starts with the consumer ensuring that the paper he or she tosses into curbside recycling is clean.
It is “easier to find a buyer,” she said, with a “better, higher quality product.”
Ms. Skolochenko confirmed what The Beacon reported 2/3/20 about Dare County’s recycling operations, saying: “Dare County has told us that they have some buyers for paper and cardboard” in Virginia. N.C. buyers also exist. (See the link to buyers, above.)
EXPANSION OF GLASS RECYCLING ON THE OUTER BANKS
The Beacon has previously reported upon Dare County’s glass recycling program, which is unique in the state because the county has had its own glass crusher since 2008. The glass it crushes is available for free pickup in Manteo by businesses and the general public. (Call ahead.)
Dare County’s recycling program is separate from the programs run by Southern Shores, Duck, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head, although the county does operate a joint-venture recycling center with Kitty Hawk.
According to David Overton, the county’s Sanitation and Recycle Supervisor, crushed glass has “multiple uses” and “endless possibilities,” including in road and sidewalk construction, driveway surfaces, and landscaping projects, as well as in candles, lamps, stained-glass windows, jewelry, and other art objects.
The Beacon has recently read the suggestion that crushed glass may be used as sediment in beach-nourishment projects.
In light of the struggles in the local recycling industry and state legal requirements, the Outer Banks Restaurant Assn. launched an initiative earlier this month to investigate the possibility of recycling all of the glass bottles generated by their members by crushing them. Each restaurant would have incentive to do so because of its ABC permitting.
N.C. law requires holders of certain Alcohol Beverage Commission (ABC) on-premise permits—those who serve wine, mixed drinks, and/or malt beverages—to recycle those beverage containers that can be recycled. Permit holders must implement a recycling program that meets the minimum standards set by the ABC and submit that plan to the ABC as part of their annual permit renewals. (N.C. General Statutes 18B-1006.1)
Many of the beverage containers used by restaurants are made of glass. Glass is also the heaviest material that is placed in single-stream recycling. The Beacon also has learned that the county’s glass crusher is only infrequently used.
According to an informed source with contacts in the OBRA, who prefers to remain anonymous, the association invited the mayors of all of the towns mentioned above to its regular monthly meeting at 3 p.m., Feb. 4, to discuss a recycling initiative.
Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon and Kitty Hawk Mayor Gary Perry attended the meeting, and Kill Devil Hills Mayor Ben Sproul sent a representative, while Duck Mayor Don Kingston sent his regrets, The Beacon’s source said. Southern Shores Mayor Tom Bennett did not participate.
Coastal Provisions Chef and Proprietor, Daniel Lewis, who is president of the OBRA, declined to comment for this article because the OBRA’s initiative is in an early stage.
The Beacon hopes Southern Shores will join the other beach towns in actively supporting an expanded glass recycling program.
In concluding, Ms. Skolochenko described the current state of the recycling industry, both domestically and globally, as the “new normal.”
“All recyclers are concerned about moving their recyclables and what they get paid for them,” she said. “. . . We have to evaluate how to manage increased costs.”
In doing that evaluation, she added, “We need to step back and look at how recyclables are collected.” And we need to be progressive and collaborative in our thinking.
UPCOMING TOWN MEETINGS ON TUES., FEB. 18:
The Town Council will hold its monthly workshop meeting, at 9 a.m., in the Pitts Center. On the agenda are the presentation of a Town staff pay study report, authored by the Piedmont Triad Regional Council (Southern Shores is in the Albemarle region), about which The Beacon has never heard mention; and a public hearing about the search for a new town manager.
You may access the workshop meeting agenda and packet here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2020-02-18.pdf.
The Planning Board will meet at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center to elect new officers and to begin discussing the process of updating the Town’s Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance and adopting the new flood maps.
The Beacon will return soon with an analysis and commentary about the pay study report.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/14/20