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The Daily Tar Heel

Trash and recycling in Chapel Hill may be taking a new turn

dining hall trash
Clarissa Constantin, a senior Arabic major, throws trash in the bin marked for landfill waste at Lenoir Hall on Nov. 14, 2018.

Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Orange County may soon be entering an agreement to settle a somewhat trash-y dispute.

The towns and county are now working together to negotiate an interlocal agreement to streamline the management of municipal waste services. Orange County has already signed on, but Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough have yet to formally agree. The parties had previously established a joint working group called the Solid Waste Advisory Group to aid in the negotiation process.

The group is made up of two government representatives from each party involved in the agreement. It also contains one representative from both UNC and UNC Health Care, although those members do not have voting power.

According to the agreement, it will “provide a framework for the development of consistent and unified communication among the parties regarding solid waste and recycling.”

Randee Haven-O’Donnell, a member of the SWAG and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, said the agreement will help the parties work together.

“The agreement is set up so that the parties involved — Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Carrboro and Orange County — are all on the same page on how they’re going to manage and govern the rate setting and regulation of solid waste facilities and programs,” she said.

Haven-O’Donnell said the agreement would help the parties move forward from tension that was created when Orange County decided to close the old Orange County Regional Landfill in 2013.

“There was an ill feeling back when the landfill closed ahead of when municipalities were ready for it to do so,” she said.

At an Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Commissioner Barry Jacobs, another member of the SWAG, said the tension led to a contentious start to negotiations over the agreement.

“The way in which our previous manager had treated Chapel Hill and Carrboro was so high-handed and so arrogant that they were, some of the elected officials and the managers, were furious,” he said. “So, we started off trying to repair relationships at the same time as we were trying to negotiate an agreement.”

That agreement has been negotiated and approved unanimously by the board on Tuesday.

The agreement would help to structure waste management programs by splitting up financial responsibility between the parties, providing services to unincorporated areas of Orange County and establishing additional 24-hour recycling centers.

Haven-O’Donnell said she hopes the agreement will provide framework for the parties to work together more effectively in the future and decrease reliance on other counties’ waste management systems.

“Hopefully as we move forward, not only through this agreement, but through our collaboration, we can move beyond shipping our waste,” she said. “If we’re gonna create it, we have to own it.”

Currently, Chapel Hill and Carrboro send most of their municipal solid waste to a facility in Durham, where it’s then transported to Sampson County. Haven-O’Donnell said this method comes with high transportation costs.

“It’s not cheap to take care of waste,” she said. “In the future, we have got to come up with something better than sending our stuff out.”

While not all parties involved have put the agreement to a vote, members of the SWAG have struck an optimistic tone when discussing the plan’s future.

“Here we are with an actual agreement, which was done in a very amicable fashion,” said Jacobs at Tuesday's meeting.

Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough are expected to discuss the agreement in the coming months.


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