Town of Chapel Hill crews installed along Franklin Street some 13 new recycling bins to collect cans and bottles that previously were mostly thrown in the trash. The bins were installed the week of Feb. 10. Another four recycling bins will be placed in Southern Village's central business area. Orange County's Solid Waste Department Recycling Division will collect the recycled materials.
The recycling bins were purchased through a $13,000 grant from N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The bins are being installed downtown at crosswalks, bus stops, near parking pay stations and parking lots.
Emily Cameron, landscape architect for the Town of Chapel Hill, said the sidewalk recycling project was the result of a successful partnership with Orange County.
"It's gratifying to be able to continue improving the downtown pedestrian experience while protecting the environment as we have in recent months with installation of cigarette disposal units and the new recycling containers," Cameron said.
Recovered cans and bottles will be trucked along with the other recyclable materials collected by Orange County to the private materials recovery facility in Greensboro owned by ReCommunity. From there, the materials are sorted, baled and sold for remanufacture into new drink cans, car parts, carpets, fiberfill, strapping and new plastic bottles.
While it is illegal under North Carolina law to dispose of aluminum beverage cans and plastic bottles in landfills, there have not been very many convenient opportunities for downtown pedestrians to recycle. With the exception of one recycling bin in front of the old Post Office and another on the south side of East Franklin, the closest pedestrian recycling containers were located on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus prior to the downtown installation.
According to Orange County Solid Waste Planner Blair Pollock, more than 46 million plastic beverage bottles and aluminum cans were disposed in the Orange County landfill last year.
"Providing recycling containers along Franklin Street makes recycling more convenient, and that is a key to capturing more material for recycling," Pollock said. "Demand for recyclable material is high, markets are strong and a lot of the plastic bottles are recycled right here in the Carolinas."
Orange County currently provides public recycling containers at all five Chapel Hill Park and Ride lots, and there are 60 walkway collection sites around the UNC campus. Away from home recycling is an important way to capture cans and bottles, Pollock said, because an estimated 50 percent are consumed away from home where there generally far fewer recycling opportunities.