The bad news is, Surry County ranks 75th out of North Carolina’s 100 counties in recycling totals per person, according to a report released this week.
But the good news is that this could change somewhat with the implementation of a curbside-recycling program in Mount Airy earlier this year.
“I would say that it’s got to help,” city Public Services Director Jeff Boyles said Wednesday.
The city’s curbside-recycling program, which was launched in late January, is expected to generate significantly more recyclables in Surry’s largest municipality than has been true in the past.
“Right now, after not even four months, we’ve received well over 150 tons so far,” Boyles said in reference to the materials generated through the program that allows city residents to recycle paper, plastics and other items directly from their homes.
“So we’re on par for over 500 tons,” the public services official said of the amount anticipated after 12 months of operation.
Before the curbside program began, the city was averaging about 100 tons annually at a lone drop-off center on Riverside Drive where recyclables had to be physically transported by citizens.
“So we expect to quintuple that,” Boyles said of the figure eyed for the first full year of curbside recycling compared to the previous rates.
Surry’s Low Ranking
The extra output by Mount Airy represents a bright spot in Surry County’s overall dismal recycling picture.
A new report from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources — which monitors recycling efforts throughout the state — shows Surry generated only 52.74 pounds of recyclables per person during the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
It ended last June 30, more than six months before Mount Airy’s curbside program was launched.
The figure of 52.74 pounds recycled per capita was derived by dividing the total tonnage of materials collected and managed by the county’s recycling programs by its population. Surry County generated 1,945.86 tons and had 73,791 residents during the last fiscal year.
Based on previous reports, Surry’s recycling rate was less than that reported for 2007 — 74.15 pounds per person — which led to the county then being ranked 57th in the state.
Yard waste, tires and some special wastes are excluded from the tonnage totals to allow for consistent comparisons from year to year.
Catawba County led the way in 2010-2011 with 729 pounds of recyclable items collected per person. At the far end of the scale, Halifax County had a total of only 5 pounds.
The showing in Catawba was largely attributed to the Catawba County Regional EcoComplex and Resource Recovery Facility. It is an innovative and interactive network of companies and operations that tries to match waste streams with the need for materials in the manufacturing of new products and energy sources.
In this area, all neighboring counties outranked Surry with the exception of Stokes (34.48 pounds per person) and Wilkes (43.87).
However, recycling efforts are expanding in North Carolina as a whole, as evidenced by Mount Airy’s recent entry into curbside recycling.
The 2010-2011 report and analysis of solid-waste management indicates that North Carolinians threw away less per capita than at any time in nearly 20 years, largely due to continuing recycling efforts as well as economic conditions.
Statewide, there has been an increase in the numbers of curbside recycling programs and citizens with access to recycling collection. During the 2010-2011 fiscal year, publicly operated curbside recycling programs grew for the third year in a row, climbing to 283 total programs from 259 in 2010 and 214 programs in 2009.
Boyles believes Mount Airy was wise to begin curbside recycling when it did, which avoided a practice of earlier years when crews had to physically separate plastics, glass, paper and other materials at their collection points. Now everything is picked up together.
“We did well to wait until the single-stream process was under way because it’s been so much more efficient,” he said.
For example, if a truck became filled with one type of material in the past, it then had to be dumped at a central location even if containers for other materials weren’t full — meaning extra mileage as well as handling.
The present method allows resources to be used more wisely, said Boyles, who added that this factor led to preliminary cost estimates for Mount Airy’s curbside program being questioned by some who were basing expenses on the older method.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.