Recycling on the Rise in Public and Private Realms

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Recycling rates across the state of North Carolina are on the rise. According to a NC DENR press release, “this occurred in spite of a weak consumer economy, a trend towards decreased weight of packaging, and the continued decrease in the circulation and size of newspapers.

The report recognized Catawba County as the state’s leading county in recycling. According to the release, Catawba County recycled 729 pounds per person in 2010-2011.

Part of Catawba County’s success has been to get private companies whose business model involves product recycling to locate and operate from Catawba County. The County’s Regional EcoComplex and Resource Recovery Facility hosts energy, wood & waste reclamation companies that produce everything from wood pallets to pottery. These efforts are conducted in conjunction with the County.

But some private businesses companies are addressing product recycling without engaging with local governments. According to the NY Times (Companies Pick Up Used Packaging, and Recycling’s Costs, March 23, 2012), companies like Starbucks are implementing closed-loop recycling, where they recycle coffee cups used in their stores into napkins for Starbucks. Whole Foods are collecting yogurt containers and sending them off for recycling when local recycling is not an option. According to the article, companies are assuming this responsibility in response to both increases in customer demand and the value of “trash,” as well as decreases in the budgets of local governments.

North Carolina may be an exception to this national perception. According to the DENR release, the number of publicly operated curbside recycling programs grew for the third year in a row, from 214 in 2009 to 283 in 2011.

Mary Tiger was formerly on staff with the UNC Environmental Finance Center.

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