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The Daily Tar Heel

SWAG to hear community input, plans to eliminate solid waste in Orange County by 2045

The Orange County Landfill pictured on Thursday, Nov. 17.

The Orange County Solid Waste Advisory Group (SWAG) is currently holding public meetings to hear feedback on its services and develop its Solid Waste Master Plan, through which the county intends to eliminate solid waste by 2045.

Meetings started mid-November and will continue through the start of December. They are offered in both in-person and online formats. 

Currently, the waste management advisory council is still developing the action items of the plan. The council values civilian input as they continue to shape their initiative. 

“Our goal is really to get a good broad-based input from the community.” Cheryl Young, research and data manager for the Orange County Solid Waste Management department, said. 

The solid waste management team is currently inviting citizens of Orange County to fill out a survey to help them gauge community involvement in proper waste disposal. It will be open to the public until Dec. 5 and will also be available in Spanish, Mandarin and Burmese.

Young highlighted that people should take the survey to tell the department what they want, where they think it's at with its work and what it should be striving towards. 

Surveys and meetings will help the department account for the social, financial and environmental factors that impact the execution of the master plan. 

The county will focus efforts around minimizing overconsumption and maximizing the reuse and reintegration of recyclable materials countywide.

“So you know, there's a flip side: one is pulling everything out of waste, but the other is demonstrating all the very proactive aspects of looking at materials. And I say that because if you think of repurposing, you don't think of it as waste,” Randee Haven-O’Donnell, Carrboro Town Council member and member of SWAG, said 

Young explained that the Zero Waste initiative started over a year ago when the concept was brought before the advisory council, which consists of county commissioners and Town Council representatives from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough. 

The first step of the council was to start solidifying a set of goals, she said. 

“Those goals included the goal for zero waste by 2045 with zero waste being identified as nothing or as close to nothing as it can be,” Young said. “You're never gonna get rid of old waste. But if there's something else that can be done with it, let's look and see if we can do that with the material.”

Young said the plan also has a number of action items with consideration to the University, surrounding municipalities and underrepresented and marginalized communities. Both the University and UNC Hospitals have representatives on the advisory council, she said. 

If citizens missed the forums held at public farmer’s markets throughout the county or the first public meeting held on Zoom, they still have the opportunity to attend two public meetings on Dec. 5. The first will be held at 10 a.m. at the Bonnie B. Davis Environment & Agricultural Center, and again at 7 p.m. at the Carrboro Town Hall. 

The meeting at the Town Hall will have Burmese and Spanish translators present. 

Updates to the master plan will be posted online, via social media and through the Solid Waste and Recycling E-News. 

Young and the advisory council urged the community to give their opinions as they will go on to contribute towards zero solid waste by 2045. 

“My personal goal for myself (is) reducing my own waste,” Caroline Hausler, recycling education and outreach coordinator with Orange County Solid Waste, said. “I think that we live in a special area where people feel that way, as well.”

@DTHCityState | 

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