No More Plastic: Bottles Banned From Area Landfills
No, the plastic bottle police are not out to nab everybody who drops a drink bottle in the trash can.
But they may descend on the Moore County Landfill and its management. A new state law that took effect Thursday prohibits disposing of plastic bottles in landfills. The only legal alternative is recycling.
"The burden is on all of us, those of us who create the trash and those who have to deal with it," said county Public Works Director Dennis Brobst.
Brobst said the burden for compliance rests with landfill operators, but he is philosophical. After all, this is just the latest in a series of materials banned from landfills -- others include aluminum cans, scrap tires, antifreeze, white goods (refrigerators, freezers and similar appliances), used oil and oyster shells.
How is the county enforcing this latest ban? The same way it has handled the previous bans, according to Brobst.
New signs have been posted at all recycling centers and at the landfill, where personnel will be eyeballing all trash for telltale hints of an illegal plastic bottle. Landfill personnel will be required to wade in and pull it out.
"It's illegal to dump 'em," Brobst said. "Now it's a little more burden for enforcement on our landfill."
Recycling bins for plastic containers have long been available at county-operated centers and at similar collection centers maintained by municipalities. The difference now is that it is against the law to dispose of these containers in any fashion other than by recycling.
Brobst said the enforcement will become reality the next time the landfill undergoes an inspection by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Division of Waste Management. The county may be subject to sanctions or fines if heavy violations are detected.
Waste haulers are also subject to penalty if found with large quantities of plastic bottles in their loads.
Moore County transports plastic recyclables to a facility in Wagram. Other materials are shipped to a variety of recycling companies elsewhere in North Carolina and in other states.
Moore County handled 46.4 tons of plastic recyclables during the fiscal year ending June 30, according to Brenda Beane, the public works administrative assistance who compiles recycling statistics.
It's anyone's guess just how much that tonnage will increase with the imposition of the latest ban.
The plastic materials collected were just part of 1,629.32 tons of recyclables handled by Moore County Public Works in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. That total includes 581.71 tons of metal, 398.39 tons of newsprint, 279.93 tons of cardboard, 143.15 tons of glass, plus smaller amounts of mixed paper and aluminum.
In addition, the county collected 2,190 gallons of used oil, 90 car batteries and 55 gallons of antifreeze and handled 3,265 pesticide containers.
Recycling is a costly process, but the county does collect some revenue to offset the expense. Companies that can crush and reuse such materials as metal, aluminum, glass and paper pay the county for these materials.
In the 2008-2009 fiscal year the county received $58,279.61 through sales of recyclables.
Brobst said signs have been posted in recent weeks at all recycling centers, and county personnel have been instructed about appropriate measures to comply with the new law. Local officials have already met with leaders of the League of Women Voters and Keep Moore County Beautiful, groups that take a leadership role on environmental issues, including recycling.
On Tuesday, Public Works officials will meet with Uwharrie Environmental Inc. officials to discuss strategy for dealing with the issue. Municipalities that use the county transfer station for transport to Uwharrie have been invited to send representatives.
Uwharrie, located in Montgomery County, is the facility that accepts solid waste collected in Moore County. Waste materials collected by the county, municipalities, private companies and individuals are delivered to the transfer station for transport to Uwharrie.
"We're doing everything we can to get our percentage of recycling up for plastics," Brobst said. "We're telling our guys how to look for plastics and what to do."
Brobst admitted that it won't be easy, because plastic drink bottles and water bottles are in such common use today. It will mean extra work for landfill personnel, but he does not expect he'll need to hire additional help -- a good thing, because the county's hiring freeze is still in effect.
"It will be difficult to do, but we can do it," he said. "We may have to make more trips to Wagram."
Brobst said the county is setting the pace for a new recycling initiative. Signs and special containers are already available at county buildings where employees and the public are asked to dispose of plastic bottles for recycling purposes, not through regular trash containers.
As for the general public, he offers this advice: Folks who finish their drinks while walking on the sidewalk, in the park and other public places or while driving should take the bottles home and put them in the recycling bin there, or, if pickup service is not available, set them aside for disposal at recycling centers.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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