Editorial: Good report on recycling

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 21, 2011

When China Grove officials decided to provide recycling collection earlier this year, the town joined a growing list of municipalities in the region and around the state making recycling more convenient for residents.
Such efforts are making a difference in waste disposal. A record number of North Carolinians ó 1.62 million ó now have access to curbside recycling services, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources says in its most recent report on recyling. That increase, coupled with new restrictions diverting plastic bottles, electronics and other recyclable items from landfills, is partly responsible for the state making solid headway on the amount of waste pouring into landfills. After steadily rising through the 1990s and early 2000s, the mountains of garbage and debris being hauled to landfills began dropping in 2006. Over the next three years, DENR says, the tonnage disposed per capita dropped 26 percent. While the recession played a part by reducing construction-related debris, higher rates of recycling made a significant ó and sustainable ó difference.
The DENR report cites some other notable accomplishments, including:
Since a plastic bottle disposal ban was passed in 2005, plastic bottle recycling has increased 50 percent.
Even with the slowdown in the housing industry, an all-time high of 112,315 tons of construction waste was recycled in 2010.
Commercial composting is growing, with more than 220,000 tons of organic materials processed.
Amid a jobs-killing recession, recycling-related jobs are expanding. Private sector recycling employment doubled between 1994 and 2010, with more than 15,000 North Carolinians now employed in the recycling industry.
Recycling is often promoted because of its environmental benefits, such as reducing the amount of stuff being buried in landfills. Thatís an important aspect, but not the only one. As the report indicates, recycling is increasingly tied to private-sector companies that both collect waste and process it. The more that we recycle, the more likely that additional recycling companies and processors will be attracted to set up shop in the state, creating more jobs and making it more feasible to expand community recycling programs. The state still has a lot of room to improve the recycling rate, but existing programs are making a major difference in the waste stream. The momentum is headed in the right direction ó away from landfills and toward increased recycling and smarter waste management practices.