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The Daily Tar Heel

New rolling recycling bins irk Chapel Hill residents

The blue recycling bins that now decorate Orange County’s neighborhoods are bigger and more technologically advanced than previous bins.

The wheeled bins are part of an effort by the Orange County Solid Waste Management Department  to encourage residents to recycle more material more often.

But some residents disagree with the decision to use the larger bins.

The Shady Lawn Road neighborhood near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is lined with woodsy, brown houses tucked below street level, many with steep, narrow staircases leading to their front door, meaning residents have to wheel the larger carts to a central road. Before, they could bring the smaller bins to the top of their driveway.

Elizabeth Moore, who lives on Shady Lawn Road, said there should be an alternate option for residents in areas like hers in a letter to the Chapel Hill Town Council.

“I pay taxes like everyone else and don’t understand why, now, I cannot recycle at curbside,” she said in her letter.

The Solid Waste Management Department provides alternate recycling options for the elderly and disabled, but not for other community members.

Each new 95-gallon bin contains a monitored computer chip. The computer chips report when each bin is picked up by a collector.

Eric Gerringer, recycling programs manager at the Solid Waste Management Department, said the county will monitor the computer chips to determine which neighborhoods recycle least often, then target those neighborhoods with educational programs about recycling.

Volunteers for the Solid Waste Management Department distributed fliers in various Chapel Hill neighborhoods to educate student residents who were just moving in about the recycling changes that came with the new bins.

The bins can be filled with a wider variety of materials, including plastic cups and tubs, but still cannot contain plastic bags. Bins must be placed at the curbside by 7 a.m. on collection day each week.

Gerringer also said the bins have logistical benefits.

“Primarily it was the ease of rolling out the carts,” he said. “They also have a greater capacity for placing recycling in, cardboard boxes can fit more easily, the lid keeps recyclables dry and more pest-free, and collection is safer and more efficient.”

Patrick Wallace and Laurie McNeil of Columbia Place told the Chapel Hill Town Council they have no space for the bin.

“Our neighborhood has small garages, and in ours we keep a compact car, a commuting bicycle, a garbage can and the smaller of two recycling bins,” the two explained in their letter. “Also, we just don’t need such a large recycling cart.”

Wallace and McNeil said their homeowners association will not allow the carts to be left out during the week.

But Gary Dupart, a first-year graduate student at UNC living on Columbia Place, said he hasn’t had a problem storing the bin in his backyard.

“I like it. I have a lot of stuff to recycle,” he said.

Gerringer said the department is working with town staff to address these concerns.

“You would have to purchase additional carts — there’s a cost there,” he said. “You would need to not only track which carts go to which residents but also the delivery of those carts. At this point, it’s still under review.”

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