Cover Story: Charlotte - rethink recycling?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Recycling, it's not just for hippies anymore.

Since the city's made it easier than ever to go green more people are recycling.  And trash cans aren't filling up nearly as fast.

Think about it. Just about a month ago, your dumpster was probably teeming with trash.

But now that you can recycle so much more, you're making less waste even when the recycling truck only comes by every other week.

There was a lot of confusion when the program begin five weeks ago now a month in we're asking is it working?

Some habits are hard to break.  Count Jack Esposito in that category.  What did he do when the city issued him a new green rollout recycling bin?  Used it as a storage container; it's stored it in his shed.

"It's too big. I don't need it," Esposito says.  "The little red basket will do for me."

Charlotte's first change in collecting recyclables in 20 years is still catching on.

Since the red 18-gallon container was ditched for the 96-gallon green cart the city's doubled the amount of plastics it takes in:  bottles and jugs; margarine and yogurt containers; and buckets.

Also accepted milk and juice cartons, and hair spray and deodorant cans.  Plus the items you always could recycle:  Aluminum, glass, boxes and newspapers.

For people who embrace recycling, they're finding they're now able to recycle more items and consequently throw away less trash.

The city's still crunching numbers on how much less garbage it's collecting, but if Charlotte goes the way other cities have the city's going to be sending less tonnage to the landfill.

"Any items that we can keep from the landfills is ideal. We really want people to recycle which in turns helps the environment," says Charita Curtis of Charlotte Solid Waste Services.

With trash cans only reaching the half-way mark some fear the city might go to an every-other week collection of garbage as it's doing with recyclables.

Neighbors like Ted Turner say they're opposed to that.  He says, "To have that laying around your house, your yard, wherever you might have it for two weeks I don't think that would be a good idea at all."

That's likely not going to happen says the city since not everyone recycles and the public backlash to such an idea might be great.

Collecting recyclables every-other-week is producing savings.  Estimated cost savings in the first year of the program:  $3.1 million.  And in ten years, total cost savings of the program expected to total $43 million.  But that also comes from being able to recycle more items.

In Center City Charlotte, Tryon Street has joined the ranks of the recycling.  Fifteen new bins next to the trash cans went up last week.  The program is funded through stimulus dollars.

Charlotte Solid Waste Services says it will release results of how much is being recycled in a few weeks when all the data comes in.

If you're still confused on which week your recyclables will be picked up we have it spelled out, look under WEB EXTRAS.

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