Major recycling project coming to Charlotte

(WBTV file photo)
(WBTV file photo)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - In June, Charlotte City Council is expected to approve $2 million to fund a groundbreaking project that takes a whole new look at recycling in our area.

The council has already approved $500,000 for the project, which will be only the second like it in the United States.

"No one else wants our trash. We have to think of what we're going to do with our own trash," said Victoria Johnson, Director of Charlotte's Solid Waste Services.

Although Charlotte has one of the best recycling programs in the United States, recycling everywhere has hit a snag.

"Mixed paper, there's almost no market," according to Johnson. "There's almost no market for glass, that once it's recycled. So I'm not telling people not to recycle, I'm saying it's just becoming more difficult to find someone to purchase it once it's processed through the recycling plant."

With a dwindling recycling market, cities everywhere are looking for new recycling options. One that has seen a lot of success overseas is called Circular Economy 100. It's a global organization working on new methods for using recycled materials.

The idea is to create new products that in turn will create a new industry.

City Council member Dimple Ajmera is behind the idea one hundred percent, saying, "We are creating gold out of garbage. We are creating opportunities, jobs, it will bring lots of jobs, opportunities."

As part of the Circular Economy 100 project, Charlotte Solid Waste is partnering with Envision Charlotte, a non-profit organization whose mission is, in part, strengthening environmental sustainability.

A 36,000 square foot warehouse just north of uptown is owned by the city and will be transformed into a working laboratory that will be open to people with new ideas about recycling.

"It will be a formal process of saying, 'this is the idea I have, this is what I want to test, and this is what I think the end product will be,'" Johnson said.

Work will soon begin on renovating the warehouse and bringing it up to code. Once the additional $2 million is approved, work will get underway in full.

Ajmera says it is an exciting project.

"Instead of putting things into landfills which also hurts the environment, we can come up with creative ways to turn it into an asset. Then we can keep using it rather than polluting our environment even more."

Charlotte is the second city in the United States to commit to the Circular Economy 100 network. Phoenix, Arizona, was the first - and its program has seen initial success.

There is a lot riding on what happens at both locations. Charlotte will certainly be the focus of other cities looking for new ways to manage their recyclables.

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