All four local governments in Orange County have declared March 2019 as “Skip the Straw Month,” joining a growing movement across the country to reduce single use plastics of all kinds. To celebrate those resolutions and promote the effort to ”Skip the Straw,” Orange County Solid Waste Department is developing a County-wide campaign to get residents and businesses to “Skip the Straw,” ideally not just for March 2019, but all year round!

Spurring the campaign locally, nationally and internationally increases awareness of the negative impacts of marine debris plastic pollution which includes plastic straws, the use of valuable petroleum resources for products that are used only briefly, then discarded, and the need for waste reduction as the cheapest most cost-effective strategy for waste management. This Friday is National Skip the Straw Day. See https://blueocean.net/no-straw-please-international-straw-free-day/ among many other resources, including: https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/outreach-education/skip-the-straw or https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-skip-the-straw-day-fourth-friday-in-february.

The local campaign has three key elements: Two free screenings of the documentary film “Straws”: Monday, March 25 at 7 p.m. at the Varsity Theater at 123 E. Franklin St. in Chapel Hill and Tuesday, March 26 at 7 p.m. at the Orange County Public Library at 137 W. Margaret Ln. in Hillsborough. RSVP by calling 919 968-2788 or writing to recycling@orangecountync.gov. The screenings will be followed by a talk by producer Linda Booker. At Tuesday’s event, local author and artist Bryant Holsenbeck will read from her book “The Last Straw” about her year of living without single-use plastics. A reception featuring local food and beverages will follow each screening. Local environmental groups will also be joining us including Haw River Assembly, Morgan Creek Valley Alliance, North Carolina Coastal Federation and Sierra Club to promote their local work on environmental protection.

Businesses offering beverages for sale on premises will also be encouraged by our campaigner Henry Mandeville, interning from UNC, to “Skip the Straw” through providing straws only on customer request, converting to use only compostable straws and eliminating plastics straws, and/or by completely eliminating straws from the offerings. Early adopters of Skip the Straw include: 411 West, Bonchon, Carolina Coffee Shop, Carrboro Pizza Oven, Four Corners, Franklin Hotel, Linda’s Bar and Grill, Lula’s, Glasshalfull, Spotted Dog Perennial, Purple Bowl, Radius Squids and Weaver Street Market. Henry continues to actively recruit local business participation. The County will recognize all businesses opting to participate.

Residents can take action by taking the pledge to “Skip the Straw.” As of Friday, March 1, the Skip the Straw pledge will be on the Orange County Solid Waste website at www.orangecountync.gov/recycling. Anyone can also begin a personal campaign to refuse a straw whenever they’re ordering a beverage, urging their dining and drinking companions to do the same, switching to washable reusable straws made from stainless steel, silicone or other durable, washable materials and urging their favorite dining and drinking establishments to offer straws only on request. Some in the hospitality business have noted that sometimes on a busy night it’s almost impossible for servers to manage bringing straws only on request, so as a compromise, they provide only paper straws, not plastic along with beverages and then compost waste straws with their other food scraps. Lots of ways to participate in this effort and help reduce the daily use of 500 million straws.

Mulch Half Off

Through March 16, Orange County is offering its screened and aged yard waste mulch for $12.50 per three cubic yard scoop. That’s 50 percent off the regular price at the landfill at 1514 Eubanks Rd. Bring a tarp, we’ll load your truck or trailer. This yard waste mulch has been aged at least sixty days so the nitrogen is fixed and will not burn the plants. Placing mulch around tree and shrub plantings conserves water, keeps the newly transplanted plants warm and reduces weed growth during growing season. This is a great time to stock up while supplies last. Landfill hours are Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon.

 

Ardmore Apartments working with Orange County to separate glass for recycling

Beginning in early February 2019, the new Ardmore Cates Creek Apartments in Hillsborough joined Orange County’s multi-unit-housing recycling program. A private trash hauler had previously provided the complex some limited recycling, but it was reported as not successful therefore it was removed. Spurred by calls from Hillsborough Town Board member Matt Hughes and other residents, County staff teamed with Ardmore’s on-site management to bring the County’s recycling carts to Ardmore. Following door-to-door delivery of recycling information coupled to an email notice from the apartment management, recycling carts were delivered and collection launched there last week. First round was reported very clean by our collector!

There is a twist to the Ardmore effort. Usually Orange County has all cans, bottles and paper together in one cart. Due to the recycling markets not being robust as in times past, glass bottles and jars, while recyclable, do not fare well in the sorting process; they break and end up as a detriment to the sorting system causing extreme wear on the plant equipment resulting in higher recycling costs. Orange County and Ardmore agreed to experiment with requesting residents to separate glass bottles and jars from other recyclables and place them in a set of specially labeled carts placed apart from the 10-cart array used for the rest of the materials.

Once enough glass is collected at Ardmore, the County will assess the usefulness of expanding glass separation and evaluate the effectiveness of doing so, to see if we can consider this option to improve recycling economics along with recovering more material. North Carolina is home to Strategic Materials, a major glass recycling plant in Wilson that cleans and sorts incoming mixed glass, providing color-sorted material to end-users that make bottles, fiberglass insulation, sandblasting media and other industrial products from glass bottles, so there is a strong market for separated glass.  Thank you Ardmore staff and residents for helping improve recycling in Orange County.

 

Blair Pollock is a Solid Waste Planner with the Orange County Solid Waste Management Department.