The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 1st

Successful recycling program threatened by privatization

Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill is home to the best recyclers in the county. The county is thinking about privatizing their recycling program, which would not be ideal for the residents of Carol Woods. Dick Wood, a resident of Carol Woods, strongly believes in their recycling program, so he helps other residents, including Louise Williams, by educating them on separating wastes and sorting them in their correct bins.
Buy Photos Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill is home to the best recyclers in the county. The county is thinking about privatizing their recycling program, which would not be ideal for the residents of Carol Woods. Dick Wood, a resident of Carol Woods, strongly believes in their recycling program, so he helps other residents, including Louise Williams, by educating them on separating wastes and sorting them in their correct bins.

They call him “Mr. Recycling.”

Lew Woodham, a resident of Carol Woods Retirement Community on Weaver Dairy Road, has been heading the community’s recycling program for the past 10 years.

And considering the community’s standing as the county’s best recycler — an estimated 60 percent of its waste is recycled, composted or repurposed — Woodham has a lot to be proud of.

“It feels very good to be so successful,” Woodham said. “It’s kind of like being the best of the best, because the county is one of the best recyclers in the state.”

But a recent proposal to privatize the county’s recycling services could threaten Carol Woods’ success.

The Carol Woods recycling program has a mutually beneficial relationship with the county. The county provides information and support to Carol Woods while using the community’s enthusiasm for recycling as an example for similar complexes, said Orange County Solid Waste Management Director Gayle Wilson.

Wilson said if the county moves forward with the proposal, the relationship with Carol Woods could unravel.

“As an entity, they are the most impassioned recyclers in the county,” Wilson said. “If privatization went through a company would probably replace us, and who knows if they would build the same relationship we have with Carol Woods.”

The 120-acre community is home to more than 450 residents who recycle everything from food scraps to eyeglasses.

“Especially in a senior community, if you want a successful recycling program you have to make it easy,” Woodham said, as he pointed to separate boxes in the mailroom for mixed paper, plastic bags, eyeglasses and batteries.

Chutes along the walls and clearly marked receptacles make recycling intuitive for all residents, Woodham said.

He said these ideas come from any members of the community who are passionate about recycling.
“It’s a community with a lot of vested interest,” Woodham said.

Dick Wood, a volunteer recycling leader at Carol Woods, said that though he has only been at Carol Woods for seven years, he has been recycling for at least 20 years.

“I think it’s more than cool — it’s a wonderful thing to do,” Wood said. “There’s so much material that gets wasted that can actually be used again.”

He said the most challenging part of the program is making sure people do it correctly.

“You can’t mix bottles with paper and stuff,” Wood said.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing about privatizing recycling services on April 23.

But for now, Carol Woods will continue to work with the county to keep up its position as the best recycler.

“It’s something we take great pride in,” Wood said. “There are so many people here who realize there are important things like recycling to do.”

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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