Orange County residents will have the opportunity to earn prizes through a new recycling program beginning in April.
The county solid waste management department developed the Orange Star Recycling Program to educate residents about recycling contaminants and to encourage proper recycling habits, according to a press release.
Robert Williams, director of Orange County Waste Management, said the Orange Star Recycling Program plans to operate for a four-week period in single-family residential neighborhoods in Orange County.
Williams said the program will increase community education regarding contaminants and encourage residents to correct their actions in the future, resulting in a long-term decrease in contaminated recyclables.
Cheryl Young, research and data manager for the waste management department, said inspectors will assess each recycling cart prior to collection. If they find contaminants, such as plastic bags and coat hangers, the cart will be labeled with an "oops" tag.
The label signals to collectors that the recycling should not be collected, Young said. The resident will then receive educational materials to discourage future contaminated recyclables.
Young said residents whose carts are labeled "oops" for the length of the program will receive a warning for cart confiscation.
"They will need to make some commitments to recycle right to keep the cart," she said.
If the cart does not include contaminants, it will be labeled with an orange star, and pickup will occur at the regular time, Young said.
Young said residents who practice correct recycling habits for a minimum of two weeks will be entered into a raffle for the chance to win a $50 gift card to the local farmers' market, a $50 VISA gift card or a compost machine to aid in further recycling measures.
Celeste Carberry, a doctoral student in environmental sciences and engineering at UNC, sees the program as a positive asset to the community but is concerned about uncollected carts due to contaminants.
“All of the waste in that cart would end up going into the trash, unless residents decided that they would sort it out themselves," she said. "Which is unlikely.”
Young said contaminated recycling ends up in landfills regardless, since the collectors are unable to sort through each individual recycled bag.
“Contamination in recycling can also result in recycling that ends up in a landfill instead of going to a processor,” she said.
Another concern is that contamination damages the equipment and systems used in recycling processes, Williams said.
“Recycling contamination is an issue that we have that is costly to our system and the environment,” he said. “We want to celebrate good recycling habits, and where we identify that we don’t have good recycling habits, we want to encourage them to improve and develop good recycling habits.”
Williams said reinforcing positive actions and discouraging negative ones will better educate residents about proper recycling, and the program seeks to shine light on the positive efforts in the community.
"Anything that can lead to good habits is a good outcome," Young said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated what constitutes a recycling contaminants. The article has been updated to reflect accurate information. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
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