Chapel Hill News

County’s new rollcarts push urban recycling higher

The county’s big, blue rollcarts, despite early concerns, increased the number of tons that urban residents recycled by 29 percent in three months, Solid Waste director Gayle Wilson said.

He was hoping for at least a 12 percent to 14 percent bump. Instead, residents of all three towns recycled 1,418 tons between July and October, he said. During that same period last year, town residents recycled 1,098 tons, he said.

“My whole staff is very excited about that,” Wilson said. “I would consider implementation of the rollcarts a very strong success, and we’re looking forward to tracking performance as we go forward and try to maintain our high level.”

The county spent $1 million on rollcarts this year, delivering 18,000 of them to Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill households in July. The department immediately got complaints about the 95-gallon cart’s color and size. About 80 rollcarts were returned, he said.

The complaints have since stopped, Wilson said.

The next step is to get rollcarts to rural residents by January or February, he said.

One issue yet to be resolved is how to get residents to place the carts squarely at the curb. Recycling trucks have broken at least 45 carts that were left in the wrong position, Wilson said. Those residents will get a letter about how to place them properly, he said.

The department also will start requiring elderly and handicapped customers to apply for its assisted collection service, he said. The number of customers requesting the service has nearly doubled, he said, to 224 households. The county’s recycling contract includes that cost, he said.

“We don’t have an age where you qualify or not,” Wilson said. “There are people who are in their 60s who have mobility problems, so we just wanted to leave that open. If you have a handicapped driver sticker, it’s automatic.”

The county delayed delivery of the rollcarts to rural curbside recycling customers after some residents told county officials they didn’t want to need the carts. Many rural residents live down long, rocky driveways or don’t have a roadside wide enough to place the carts for pickup, the residents said.

The county provides curbside recycling every two weeks to 13,700 rural households, and about half regularly use the service, officials said. Rural curbside customers also can continue using their 18-gallon orange bins or take their recyclables to the county’s convenience centers, officials said.

The department sent surveys to all rural customers in October and November, Wilson said, and got 7,500 responses. At least 6,841 customers have asked for the rollcarts, he said. Other customers who want rollcarts should contact the recycling department before December, he said.

The county has budgeted enough money to buy 7,000 rural rollcarts, Wilson said, but he could recommend buying a few more at the commisioners’ Dec. 9 meeting.