In 2018, Dare County’s glass crusher handled 500 tons of glass, reducing bottles and jars to piles of fine sand and a pebble mulch that are free to the public.
Five hundred tons, according to Doug Huff, the county’s Solid Waste Superintendent. That is a lot of wine, beer, and liquor bottles.
For more than a decade, Dare has been the only county in North Carolina with its own mechanized glass pulverizer. The machine is the crown jewel of the county’s recycling operation, which The Beacon recently toured with Mr. Huff and Dare County Public Works Director Shanna Fullmer. Southern Shores Civic Assn. president Rod McCaughey came along for the ride, at The Beacon’s invitation.
“We want to do everything possible to work with local government entities on responsible recycling efforts,” Mr. McCaughey told The Beacon.
The SSCA owns and manages extensive open spaces in Southern Shores. It is also a voice for its membership, Mr. McCaughey said, in “the health and welfare of our community as a whole.”
According to County Manager/Attorney Bobby Outten, Dare County purchased its glass crusher in 2008 after the State of North Carolina began requiring holders of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission permits to recycle all recyclable beverage containers.
Needless to say, the Outer Banks has many restaurants, convenience stores, and other retail and entertainment establishments that have ABC permits to sell wine, malt beverages, and mixed drinks on their premises. At the urging, and with the powerful assistance of former N.C. State Senator and Senate President Marc Basnight, according to Mr. Outten, the County and the Dare County Tourism Bureau got out in front of the new State law.
The total cost associated with the glass crusher was $225,000, Mr. Outten said, of which the county paid about half.
The glass crusher itself cost about $120,000, which was covered by a state grant.
SOUTHERN SHORES RECYCLABLES GOING TO AN INCINERATOR NOW
As The Beacon has previously reported, Bay Disposal and Recycling, with whom Southern Shores has a three-year contract for curbside recycling pickup that it signed in June 2018, is no longer hauling its loads to a materials recycling facility, also known as a materials re-use or recovery or reclamation facility. Such facilities are referred to as MRFs, an abbreviation pronounced as murfs.
MRFs receive, separate, and prepare recyclables for marketing to end-user manufacturers. There is no MRF in northeastern North Carolina. The closest MRF to the Outer Banks is Tidewater Fibre Corp. (TFC) Recycling’s MRF in Chesapeake, Va.
Last December, however, TFC stopped accepting Bay Disposal’s collected recyclables at its facility. Since then, the Powells Point-based hauler has transported all of its loads to a waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth that incinerates them.
None of the items that you currently place in your recycling receptacles, which you then wheel to the roadside for the Wednesday morning pickup, are actually being recycled. They are being burned.
This is true of all unsorted so-called “single-stream” recycling that Bay Disposal collects, whether it is from curbside cans or from bins at county and town recycling centers, such as at the joint Dare County-Kitty Hawk Recycling Center, located at 4150 Bob Perry Road in Kitty Hawk.
The N.C. State law that imposed a duty on ABC permittees to recycle and took effect in 2008 also prohibits the incineration of recyclable beverage containers sold by ABC permittees, as well as aluminum cans. Clearly, this is precisely what is happening now with such Outer Banks recyclables.
The N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality is temporarily allowing Bay Disposal to transport recyclables to Wheelabrator, the energy facility, while it investigates other solutions. This is strictly a short-term arrangement.
(For background, see The Beacon, 12/7/19, 1/3/20, 1/9/20, 2/3/20, 2/14/20.)
DARE COUNTY’S CRUSHER AND OVERALL RECYCLING OPERATION
One obvious solution for glass products that Outer Banks consumers and businesses have been putting in single-stream recycling is to arrange for their transport to the Dare County public works facility for pulverization in the glass crusher. The facility is located at 1018 Driftwood Drive, just outside of downtown Manteo, off of N.C. Hwy. 64.
There is consumer and commercial demand for crushed glass sand or pebbles, which may be used in road and sidewalk construction, on driveway surfaces, and in landscaping projects, as well as in candles, lamps, stained-glass windows, jewelry, and other art objects.
(See the Town of Kill Devil Hills’ promotion of recycled glass mulch at https://www.kdhnc.com/564/Recycled-Glass-Mulch.)
People interested in obtaining some of the sand or mulch must call ahead and put their names on a list, according to Ms. Fullmer. They will be notified when they can pick up their treasure. (Call (252) 475-5890).
In the off-season, the Public Works Director said, the crusher operates about once per month. During the summer, its use increases to about once per week, she estimated.
Hammers inside the glass crusher pound about five tons of glass per hour.
Employed with the county public works department since 1996, Ms. Fullmer previously served as Solid Waste Superintendent and interim director before being named to her current position in October 2018.
In announcing her appointment, Mr. Outten noted her “can-do attitude” and described her as “working daily” to make the public works department run “more efficiently.”
We would just call her a dynamo. She has the high energy and know-how to get things done.
Ms. Fullmer presides over a large domain—what with trash collection for Manteo, the unincorporated Dare County areas, and the Town of Kitty Hawk; annual large-item pickups; maintenance and landscaping of all county facilities; special waste-disposal programs, mosquito control, etc., etc., in addition to myriad recycling operations—that includes the county’s 900-acre landfill in Stumpy Point, which she encouraged me to visit.
Ms. Fullmer assured me the landfill is pristine and nothing like the towering, malodorous landfills that conceal dead bodies on true-crime shows.
We walked on crushed glass when we crossed the public works facility grounds to witness up-close the operation of the mighty crusher. Mr. Huff picked up a handful of the sparkling glass under foot to prove that it was neither sharp nor jagged and, therefore, would pose no threat of injury.
The gray beast itself is a noisy, but efficient machine with a 20-foot-long conveyor belt that transports the bottles, which have already been broken down into pieces, to the inner workings where the pulverization hammers do their work. It screens out wine bottle corks, beer bottle caps, and other debris so that the residue of the process is just glass, which is deposited in two piles on the ground: one, the fine glass sand, the other, the pebble mulch. (See the photo above; the piles are on either side of the shovel.)
Dare County has separate bins for glass at its drop-off recycling centers, which are located, in addition to the Driftwood Drive site, in Buxton and Rodanthe. Its shared drop-off center in Kitty Hawk also has a bin for glass only and is within easy driving distance of Southern Shores. Only pre-sorted glass makes its way into the crusher.
Besides glass, the county public works facility has separate bins for sorted corrugated cardboard, paper, and large metal (not aluminum cans), for which, Ms. Fullmer said, there are markets. She described the recyclables that Dare can sell as “very basic stuff,” and said its profits have fallen off steeply in recent years.
Two years ago, Ms. Fullmer explained, Butler Paper Recycling in Suffolk paid the County $180 per ton for its paper recyclables. Today, the price is only $20 per ton.
“Recycling has never been a moneymaker,” Mr. Huff observed, but its value to the natural environment and the U.S. quality of life is priceless.
(Please note: The Beacon was earlier misinformed by a source about Dare having recycling markets for aluminum cans and plastics. It does not.)
The County makes some money off of recycled tires, thanks to the State’s Scrap Tire Disposal Act, which requires counties to provide for the disposal of scrap tires within their geographic boundaries. A scrap tire disposal tax is applied to the sale of all new tires, and the N.C. Dept. of Revenue distributes these tax proceeds to counties, proportionately.
In 2018, according to Mr. Huff, Dare County processed 750 tons of scrap tires, transporting them to a recycler in Cameron, N.C.
A CULTURAL CHANGE IS NEEDED
Although the County’s drop-off recycling centers accept single-stream recycling, it is going exactly where your curbside recycling is going now: to an incinerator.
Even before TFC stopped taking single-stream recyclables from the Outer Banks, it was having to deal with contamination in the product—which meant that recyclables were being rejected and ending up in landfills.
Contamination means both that consumers are inadequately cleaning accepted recyclables, as well as improperly including in the stream items that are not recyclable or that interfere with MRF processing, such as plastic bags, string, wax-covered food cartons, and styrofoam. (Ms. Fullmer and Mr. Huff say they have seen trash such as soiled diapers, used hypodermic needles, and other disgusting waste in single-stream recycling.)
Dare County Manager Bobby Outten said there have been discussions on the county and state level for the past two years about what to do with recycling—ever since China enacted its “National Sword” policy and banned importation of plastics and other recyclable materials from overseas because of their contamination.
“Sorting on the front end is easier and cleaner” and vital, said Ms. Fullmer, who explained that professionals in the solid waste management industry were always dubious about single-streaming, which may not survive shifts in the marketplace.
As we have previously reported, China is not the only game in the world—India, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia have stepped up to try to fill the voice—but The Beacon believes the future of waste management in the United States rests in large part with reforming our throwaway culture and reducing American reliance on plastic containers, especially the omnipresent plastic water bottle.
It may be up to the grass roots to start the reformation, which could begin simply at the supermarket, when you reach for bottled water and other beverages. Think glass, not plastic or aluminum.
Locally, until a better option presents itself, you also can help by sorting your glass and corrugated cardboard from the rest of your no-longer-recycled recyclables and transporting these products to the Kitty Hawk recycling center. The Beacon is still trying to figure out how to consolidate paper recyclables–newspapers, magazines, paper bags, printer paper, and other products–and arrange for their regular transport to Manteo.
The Dare County/Kitty Hawk center is attended and is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The center also accepts old furniture, electronics, and white goods. If you live in Southern Shores and would like to drop off a large item, you will need to obtain a permit from the Town, which Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett said costs $50. (I have had no trouble leaving old televisions and computers there.)
The Manteo recycling center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Upon arrival, you drive in and back to the rear of the grounds, where you will find the appropriate bin for disposing of your recyclables.
We have learned recently that a multi-town meeting to discuss local recycling options will be held in Manteo on March 30. When further details become available, we will pass them along.
HAZARDOUS WASTE COLLECTION DAYS SCHEDULED IN MAY
One further note: Thanks to Ms. Fullmer, Dare County will be hosting household hazardous waste collections in three locations this year. The Northern Dare beach collection will occur on Thursday, May 28, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Kitty Hawk Recycling Center on Bob Perry Road.
A Buxton collection will take place at the Dare County transfer station there on May 29 from 2 to 4 p.m., and the Manteo collection will be May 30, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the public works facility.
This program is the brainchild of the dynamo Public Works Director, who smartly decided that you need a place to dispose safely of the following materials:
*Paint, polishes, and varnishes, as well as paint-related materials
*Herbicides and insecticides
*Batteries (regular and automotive)
*Fluorescent light bulbs
*Automotive fluids (brake, transmission, etc.)
For more information about these drop-off days, contact Mr. Huff at (252) 475-5843.
The Dare County public works facility in Manteo and the recycling center in Kitty Hawk accept batteries and used motor oils throughout the year. Check with the public works department before you make a trip to one of the county’s other recycling centers: (252) 475-5890.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/12/20