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New carts aim to boost rural recycling in Orange County

The program is a decades-old program that picks up recycling placed at the edge of participants’ driveways every other week.

The program covers roughly 14,000 residents outside the city limits of Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Carrboro.

Approximately 11 percent of the recycling that Orange County processed in 2012-13 came from the program.

About 6,000 residents in the program have signed up for the new carts. Orange County is expected to begin delivering the carts in the last week of January and plans on finishing as late as March.

Approximately 500 rural residents opted out of the new program.

“The plan is that the service will be expanded in time to include everyone,” Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs said.

The total cost of the new carts is $444,144.

“Some of the money comes from state grants, but most of it comes from the fees for pickup,” Jacobs said.

Before the purchase of the new carts, participants of the program had to carry their recycling in 18-gallon bins to the edge of their driveway for pickup.

The older bins made cardboard recycling difficult, since cardboard usually wouldn’t fit in the container, said Gayle Wilson, director of Orange County Solid Waste.

It was also possible for some recycling from the older bins to be lost due to animals or wind when they were laid out on the curb, he said.

The 95-gallon carts are more efficient than the 18-gallon bins, Wilson said.

“Theoretically, when they are bigger, you will put more recycling in them for pickup so you can broaden the recycling,” Jacobs said.

The new carts are easier to transport, both for residents and for the pickup crew, Wilson said.

“Tilting and rolling a cart is easier than having to put your back into lifting a bin,” he said.

“But these new carts also allow for automated pickup.”

Automated or semi-automated pickup is safer for the employee and leads to fewer injuries, Wilson said.

These new carts were implemented for the urban curbside recycling program in July 2014.

Those carts led to a large increase in recycling, said Eric Gerringer, recycling programs manager for Orange County.

“The urban area has started collection with the carts, and we have increased the tonnage of recycling by 29 percent compared to the same time last year,” Wilson said.

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While the increase in recycled material will likely be smaller for the rural program than for the urban program due to the difficulty of collecting recycling from rural areas, it is still expected to be close to 15 percent, Gerringer said.

“I’m in favor of having everyone decorate the new carts, but I seem to be the only one,” Jacobs added.