Thursday, September 11, 2014

How can we get people to recycle more?

There were plenty of interesting comments on the Observer's Facebook page for the story that said Charlotteans toss an estimated 40 million cardboard tubes annually from bathroom tissue rolls.
One commenter suggested reusable tubes that we could use with the new tubeless toilet paper rolls that have hit the market. Great idea, but it turns out our recycling problem is much bigger. I learned that from an email that arrived after last week’s column was published.
Recycling at single-family homes declined locally in 2013 (to about 147 pounds per person annually) compared to 1999 (155 pounds), according to Sustain Charlotte’s 2014 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Sustainability Report Card.
Residents of apartments and condominiums hardly recycle at all, said Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte.
So we’re spending more than $10 million a year to send about 364,000 tons of residential waste to a landfill. “That doesn’t include the much larger costs – collection and transportation,” Binns said.
About half of that waste could be recycled for savings of $29 per ton in landfill fees, Binns said. Recycling the waste could generate almost $20 per ton.
Sustain Charlotte has offered two suggestions for boosting recycling: Make it a requirement and impose fines for those who don’t. Or we could adopt a pay-as-you-throw system. Either would surely be better than throwing money away.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms


Bolyn McClung said...


It's a little bit of an overshoot to say everything that is purchased is eventually tossed but that is close.

Doesn't matter whether it is the container or its contents, think food, it all goes to the landfill or sewer.

Just an idea.

Bolyn McClung

Charles McCarville said...

We certainly have a recycling problem, just not what you'd assume. According to the Charlotte Waste Services, we are spending - SPENDING - $3.6 million year. It costs $4M to collect and $1.1M for the containers. The savings are only $1.5M.

That is $3.6M each year, every year, to make people feel good.

Why does your reporting not include this information?

DMorrisPE said...

Not everyone is a "greenie" and they feel no compunction to waste time that they don't have dealing with products that are being thrown away.

If that batch of recyclables is worth money, then why can't entrepreneurs make a career of it? Processing costs too much for the meager return, that's why. The City tried it and went broke, as have several other operations.

I am a consumer. That means I consume things, Some items are food, some items are home goods some items are mechanical, etc. Almost all of these items come in a container or wrapper to make it easier to ship or keep it fresh. It is incumbent on the MANUFACTURER to minimize the wrap. Why cant something, say light bulbs, come in a shrink-wrap made of bio-degradable corn instead of recycled cardboard?

We need better container designers to develop new self-decomposing materials that have zero-to-minimal impacts on solid wast collection.

lizhb said...

Charlotte in 1999 had a decent recycling program and actually picked up once a week. 3 things can be addressed immediately.
1. Increase the recycling schedule pickup (then I can throw more recyclables away) or give us more recycle bins 1 is NOT enough!!!!
2. Start addressing the wrapping that everything comes in!!!! How much does an item need to be wrapped?
3. Since the restrictions for pickup are so punitive WHATS the Point?
Fining people if you catch them is NOT a solution
In a lot of countries they have added recycle bins to streets or common points so one can drop your bottles,batteries, paper in a central location giving people a larger access to throwing recyclables away, guess what it works Less restrictions and more access will improve any program

carol weber said...

I have tried to get the attention of someone, anyone regarding the "pay as you throw" program. Am i the only one in Charlotte that remembers that when the green recycling bins came out there was a lot of discussion regarding the chips that were placed in these bins. These chips were supposed to monitor the amount recycled and fine those that recycle at all or very little. Whatever happened to that?? Would be a perfect way for the City to gain revenue from those that don't comply. If you can find an answer, i applaud you because i can't. Thank you