ENC Regional News
10:54 am
Fri October 23, 2009

New landfill regulations ban plastic bottles

New landfill regulations ban plastic bottles

New Bern, NC – INTRO - The first of this month brought new regulations as to new and commonly used items banned from state landfills, though its actual effect on individual citizens is likely to be minimal. George Olsen has more.

As of October 1st, three new names have been added to a list of items that are no longer allowed in landfills. The first two motor vehicle oil filters and wooden pallets are not typically what you'll put curbside on garbage pick-up day. The third item plastic containers with a neck smaller than the body of the bottle, such as milk jugs and soft drink bottles is. What this means for you as you haul your trash to the curb not much.

"As an individual homeowner puts out your garbage everyday you won't have the trash police coming by. You won't have your hauler rejecting things in your cart, I don't think the carts equipped to do that itself. As a law it will not be affecting folks directly at their residences and for that matter most businesses."

Scott Mouw, the state recycling director. However, if the state isn't getting set to organize a garbage police patrol to inspect your waste for banned items, the folks they police may come back to you asking for your help and cooperation.

"The state is responsible for this law, the state enforces its solid waste laws principally at permitted disposal facilities which are things like landfills or things called transfer stations where loads of waste are transferred to distant landfills, and as the state inspects those facilities the inspectors will be looking for evidence of large scale or pervasive disposal of banned materials."

At that point the state tells whoever picks up your garbage they're obliged to try and divert banned materials and those folks may come to you with new recycling options plus educational efforts. They'll have some work to do in terms of plastic bottles. Mouw doesn't have exact figures but estimates 50% of aluminum cans are now recaptured since recycling efforts for the cans started in 1994. The recovery rate for plastic bottles is comparatively dismal.

"We estimate that as for plastic bottles about 288 million plastic bottles are generated by North Carolinians across the state every year. Through city and county recycling programs, we estimate we recover about 44 million of those so it's about a 16 percent recovery rate."

He's hoping to get that into the 50% range though, unlike aluminum cans, plastic has no direct re-sell value. That means with no direct financial incentive to recycle, consumers will have to be encouraged to look at the bigger picture.

"As citizens we buy all kinds of materials from grocery stores and Target and Wal-Mart and we use things like carpet in our homes and those kinds of materials are increasingly using recycled content. In other words the manufacturers are really trying to reach back into the waste stream, so to speak and capture those materials from waste and use them as the commodities that they are to make the products that they make."

Part of that bigger picture could be jobs in a state with double-digit unemployment. Mouw says there are at least 25 companies recycling motor oil as well as "really strong" wood pallet recycling efforts. Envision Plastic in Reidsville recycles HTPE plastics, employing 100 people and a new company coming to Fayetteville will become the largest recycler of PET plastic in the nation.

"Clear Path is owned in part by Shaw industries which is the largest carpet manufacturer in the U-S. It's a company owned by Berkshire Hathaway which is a Warren Buffet company so we're happy to say that Warren Buffet is a supporter of recycling and he has built a company, another company called DAK Americas put together this big venture that will employ about 100 people in Fayetteville, bring about an $80 million investment to the state, and will need as many bottles as they can possibly get."

Specifically they're looking to recycle 5-billion bottles each year meaning the Coke bottle in your hand might not be golden but may draw a bit more attention than usual. Scott Mouw is the state recycling director. I'm George Olsen.