Chapel Hill's municipal solid waste continues to find itself in the backyard of low-income communities, despite the town's best efforts to keep landfills out of these areas.
There is not a cohesive plan for the future of Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro’s municipal solid waste disposal system. Community leaders in Orange County are pushing for a waste disposal system that will not put an extra burden on low-income communities like the current landfill option.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted to close the Chapel Hill landfill in 2013 because of its close proximity to the Rogers Road Community, a low-income and historically African-American neighborhood. A large amount of Orange County’s municipal solid waste now goes to the Sampson County Landfill, which resides next to a low-income neighborhood in Roseboro.
"Leaders like myself understand that what we did is we took it out of the Rogers Road Neighborhood but we put it in probably some other neighborhood’s backyard, most likely a lower-income neighborhood, and most likely a neighborhood of color,” said Orange County Board of Commissioner Penny Rich. “You’re not going to get permits to put trash in the backyard of a golf course or a multi-million dollar home area.”
Board of Aldermen member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said, “We have not dealt with the essential question, which is ‘how do we want to deal with the waste that we generate in our own community?’”
The Chapel Hill Landfill was built off of Eubanks Road in 1972. The mayor at the time promised the landfill was only temporary, but it remained in place until the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted to close it in 2013, putting undo stress on the Rogers Road Community.
The closing of the Chapel Hill Landfill was considered a social- and racial-justice win and was celebrated by community members.
Because Chapel Hill was unable to find a new location for the landfill within Orange County, the town had to look elsewhere for a place to dispose of residential solid waste.
Chapel Hill Solid Waste Services Manager Wendy Simmons said municipal solid waste is now transported to the Waste Disposal & Recycling Center in Durham, a transfer station that then ships the waste out to the Sampson County Landfill.