In the 2013-14 fiscal year, the county calculated that each resident produced about a half ton of waste, which was down 64 percent from the 1991-92 base year, when residents produced 1.36 tons of waste.
Gayle Wilson, solid waste management director for Orange County, said the new record was not a shock to him but a nice surprise.
“I think there are several things that have led to our success: environmental action and ethical choices of our citizens,” Wilson said.
The waste reduction rate in Orange County has been a focus for several years.
In 1997, Orange County vowed to reduce its waste by 61 percent. At the time, the county’s goal was much higher than the state’s 40 percent statutory waste rate reduction goal. After 17 years, this year is the first year the county exceeded that goal.
Wilson said exceeding the goal was a testament to the hard work of the entire community and its ability to adapt to change.
“Our county has a solid waste staff that has worked very hard to achieve this level and to educate people about recycling,” he said.
Wilson said some changes need to be made in order to continue the county’s success.
“One of the things that hurts us is the closure of the landfill and having to transport waste to other areas,” Wilson said.
“We have lost local control that enables us to meticulously monitor waste reduction data.”
Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich said the reduced waste rate was a sign of hard work and education.
“I want to say it was a surprise, but the effort of the solid waste workers was phenomenal,” Rich said.
“They have gone out of their way to educate the citizens on solid waste management and the citizens have acted on it.”
Rich said the county as a whole has adapted to become more waste conscious.
“Many of the things put in place for waste management are spreading to various areas of the county and are being applied over and over again,” she said.
Rich said the county plans to add as many as 6,500 additional roll-out recycle carts in mostly rural areas.
Wendy Simmons, solid waste services manager for Chapel Hill, said in an email the county was moving into a future with more recycling.
“Achieving a 64 percent waste reduction goal is a significant achievement, and it appears that the implementation of roll carts is leading to additional materials being diverted from the landfill,” Simmons said.
There is also interest in starting a countywide composting plant.
“I am almost positive that this could be something to further reduce our waste,” Rich said.