Orange County could expand its curbside recycling program to all rural residents by the end of this summer – two years ahead of schedule – solid waste director Gayle Wilson said.
A study this fall found only one additional truck and driver, instead of two, could expand the service to the remaining 7,000 customers, Wilson said. Shuffling the routes could put up to 60 percent of rural homes now receiving curbside pickup on a different collection day, he said.
Roughly 14,900 existing rural customers – about 9,000 of whom use roll carts – should expect a notice by June alerting them to changes in their recycling collection service, he said. The county also provides curbside recycling to roughly 18,000 in-town customers.
The shorter timeline, Wilson said, also means rural customers won’t continue to pay for a service that they are not receiving.
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The towns and county approved a flat recycling fee this year – $107 for every developed property regardless of the services received. Apartments, shopping centers and other multi-unit properties are charged $107 for each “front door.” The fee is included in a property owner’s annual tax bill.
The county will send a letter to rural residents who don’t currently qualify for curbside recycling in January, according to a memo. The letter will include a postage-paid card for ordering 95-gallon roll carts or 18-gallon bins, it said, and will be followed by another letter in February to homes that fail to respond.
Shuffling the routes also saves the county money, Wilson said. This year’s budget identified funding for the new truck, which is on order, and an additional driver. The county also could pay up to $248,000 to buy 4,000 95-gallon recycling roll carts and 2,000 18-gallon bins, the memo states.
The second new truck and driver would have cost about $290,000, he said.
Many rural residents have opposed expansion of the curbside recycling program, especially since they still would have to take their trash to the convenience centers. Others are concerned about the prospect of hauling a full roll cart up to a mile or more down narrow dirt and gravel driveways.
The county also has looked at how to address steep dropoffs, deep ditches and narrow roadsides at some rural homes, Wilson said. The information is being used to create a database, so recycling officials can help folks figure out where to put their carts, he said.
“We’re just excited to be able to bring this service to everyone,” Wilson said. “The rural portions of unincorporated Orange County present some challenges to this type of service, and (we’re asking folks to) just be patient and allow us to work through it.”
The county also expects the change to continue pushing up the recycling rate. A December 2014 report found that the county had exceeded its waste reduction goal of 61 percent for the first time after moving in-town customers to the rollcarts and a single-stream recycling system.
The county dumped 0.49 tons of waste per person in landfills from July 2013 to June 2014, a state report shows, about 64 percent less than the 1.36 tons generated per person in 1991-92.
Recycling rates for 2014-15 were not available, but Wilson said the hope is expanded curbside service will encourage more people to recycle.
If “you’re going into an area that’s never had it – cold – and they’re getting carts and they’re getting actual recycling service in front of their house, we’re not sure exactly how they’re going to react,” he said, “but we think it will be very positive, participation will be very high and people will recycle more.”
The county also is moving ahead with an expansion and renovation project next year at the Eubanks Road convenience center. A similar project in 2012 at the Walnut Grove Church Road convenience center increased the types of recyclable items and made the center more efficient, officials said.
Other, smaller convenience centers could be renovated over the next several years.
Older residents or those with disabilities who have trouble getting their recycling and trash to the curb or roadside can apply for help at bit.ly/1RS7nVO.
Help also is available for low-income families who need help paying their recycling bill. County tax office director Dwane Brinson said 748 property owners already have signed up for the program.
Contact the county tax office at 919-245-2100 (press #2) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.