Chapel Hill News

July 8, 2014

Big, blue carts have some customers red

Give your big, blue recycling roll cart a chance, Solid Waste director Gayle Wilson said.

Give your big, blue recycling roll cart a chance, Solid Waste Director Gayle Wilson says.

The last of more than 18,000 95-gallon recycling carts were rolled out last week in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough. Wilson said they ordered roughly $1 million worth of carts, including some extras for future customers. Items left curbside in the old 18-gallon bins won’t be collected.

The larger size helps the county to better serve customers with a lot of cardboard from online purchases, as well as to accept more types of plastic, Wilson said. It could help expand the recycling program later to include more materials, such as food waste, he said.

The change is part of the county’s new automated truck service, expected to make collection routes more efficient and reduce worker injuries, he said.

However, several people have complained that the carts are too big, too heavy or too blue, he said.

Wilson said he’s asking everyone to give it a month. If people are still not happy, recycling crews will pick up their rejected carts. Those who forgo the roll carts will have to take their recyclables to a county convenience center or in-town recycling dropoff sites.

“We’re hoping some people who initially don’t like them will reconcile themselves to it,” Wilson said.

Chapel Hill resident SeonAe Yeo said the county can take her cart back.

The small-statured UNC assistant professor said she tries to limit how much waste she produces and it would take months to fill the larger roll cart. The carts weigh roughly 46 pounds when empty, making it hard for her to handle on the steep, winding hills outside her Columbia Place duplex. A neighbor came over to help when the cart was dropped off, she said.

Her neighbors also are concerned, she said, since the homeowners association doesn’t allow trash bins to be stored out front, and there’s little room for extras in their narrow, one-car garages.

“I don’t want to make this one of those huge political issues,” Yeo said. “I see that probably the budget is very tight, and they are trying to streamline it. That’s a good thing, but they really didn’t inform us.”

The county sent postcards to every household receiving curbside service, officials said, and also bought radio and newspaper ads. Yeo said she missed those notices but learned about the carts through the neighborhood listserv.

The homeowners association may be negotiating with the county to use smaller bins, which the neighborhood would buy, she said. Wilson said Chapel Hill has a few areas where trees or on-street parking makes it difficult for the automated trucks to maneuver. Those residents have been notified and will be allowed to use their old bins, he said.

Older residents and those with handicaps can call the Solid Waste department (919-968-2788) about signing up for a special pickup service, Wilson said. The service has been offered for years but is not available if an able-bodied person also lives in the home, he said.

As for the color, Wilson said he doesn’t love the vivid blue either, but it’s popular nationwide and easily seen.

The county will survey roughly 15,000 rural curbside recycling customers later this summer to gauge their interest in getting the roll carts. Rural customers who don’t want the larger carts may get to keep their bins, officials have said.

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