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If you ask the average person what kinds of packaging can go in the recycling bin, you’ll probably get a list full of plastic bottles, steel cans and aluminum, but paper cartons don’t usually make that off-the-cuff list.

A group of industry representatives calling itself the Carton Council of North America is hoping to change that. 

“We really do have a vision that those packages are recyclable, and we want to be sure that there is that capability in communities across the country,” said Derric Brown, sustainability director at Evergreen Packaging in Canton. 

Recycling receptacles are coming to downtown Sylva soon, at last giving shoppers and strollers a green option for pitching their bottles, cans, cups and last week’s copy of The Smoky Mountain News.

fr recyclingSince the town of Sylva’s curbside recycling program was reinstated about five years ago, its participation has stagnated, with the vast majority of residents not partaking.

fr recycleableHaywood County is making plans to bring recycling operations back in-house — a move that would eventually mean dollar signs for the county.

fr lightbulbsA compact fluorescent light bulb uses about 75 percent less energy than the old-fashioned kind and lasts up to 10 times longer. They may cost more upfront, but a net savings of $25 during the life of each bulb has spurred American households to make the switch en masse to the energy-saving bulbs in recent years.

Haywood County has offered a helping hand as towns grapple with how to cover the extra cost of hauling resident’s trash to the White Oak Landfill.

Starting in July, towns will have to drive trash out to the White Oak landfill near the Tennessee border. Currently, the towns transport their garbage to a transfer station in Clyde, a convenient mid-way point, and the county takes it the rest of the way to landfill. But, the county has decided to shut down the station to save money.

Rather than leaving towns in the lurch, the county will share some of the savings it realizes with the towns to help offset a portion of the extra cost they would otherwise incur.

“We want to try to minimize any negative impact,” said Mark Swanger, chair of the Haywood County Board of Commissioners. “We knew that it would likely create additional costs.”

The money will come out off the $800,000 to $900,000 in savings the county will realize after it closes the transfer station.

“There will be sufficient savings to help the municipalities,” Swanger said. “I think they are very amenable to it.”

It is unknown how much the county will chip in.

“Any amount that would reduce our costs would help,” said Waynesville Town Manager Lee Galloway.

The extra driving distance to the landfill will mean more gas and more hours for town trash trucks. Towns could also be forced to buy additional trucks and hire more garbage men as a result.

Realizing the additional burden it would place on towns, the county held off on closing the transfer station until summer to align with the new budget year. The county has been working through the issue with towns for more than a year.

“The cooperation between the county and towns is really important,” said David Francis, chair of the county’s solid waste committee. “We knew that it was going to be a change in the way they operate.”

The county wanted to avoid changing “all the sudden” and give towns a chance to figure how they will handle the change, he said.

The county realizes that town residents are also county residents, Francis said, and wanted to ease the burden on towns and hopefully avoid a situation where the towns would need to pass the added cost onto their residents.

The county’s scales at the transfer station have helped show towns that their garbage trucks were often not filled to capacity when dropping trash, Francis said. If the trucks carried heavier loads, they could take fewer trips to the landfill and possibly avoid the cost of new truck.

The towns are currently tabulating how much each option would cost them and must present their estimates to the county by Jan. 15. The county will decide how much it will give to the towns in May as it constructs its budget.

No more schlepping those empty drink bottles or cans home after a day of browsing in downtown Waynesville.

A dozen recycling containers will soon be scattered around Main Street and its surrounds.

The town made the move purchase and install recycling cans based on requests from merchants as well as residents, according to Alison Lee Melnikova, the assistant town manager.

Melnikova scouted the streets and sidewalks with Downtown Waynesville Association Director Buffy Messer recently to assess where to put the new containers, but the final locations are still being decided.

The recycling containers will look similar to the public trash cans around downtown, with the vertical wood slats, but will be dark green in color and are actually made from recycled plastic, although they look like wood, Melnikova said. The recycling containers will cost the town $5,000.

For special events and festivals, DWA put out portable recycling cans, but the rest of the year, Main Street browsers faced the unfortunate conundrum of what to do with those recyclables — either toting a sticky can around or guiltily tossing it when it seems no one is looking.

Cans should be in place by early August.

This June, 91,000 pounds of paper will make its way into Western North Carolina. Some of it will end up in kitchen drawers, some will be used as doorstops, some will end up as litter dotting the roads, while still more will eventually find a home in the landfill.

It’s this year’s shipment of Yellowbooks, an annual tradition that could one day be an anachronism in an increasingly digital world.

But Neg Norton doesn’t think that day will be soon. He’s the president of the Local Search Association, also known by various other names including the Yellow Pages Association.

“It still plays a big role,” said Norton of the good old printed phone book. “About 75 percent of adults used print yellow pages some 11 billion times last year. We have some 3 million small-business advertisers across the country. Clearly they do so because they’re getting a good return on investment.”

But some think that rather than being a relevant tool, the phone book is an annoying relic. On the West Coast, San Francisco lawmakers are looking to ban the book from city limits unless a customer requests it. A similar measure in Seattle was met with a lawsuit last year by Norton’s group, who lobby actively on behalf of the $13 billion industry.

In Waynesville, such severe measures aren’t on the table, but Town Manager Lee Galloway said he does hear complaints about the tomes.

“Especially at some houses that were vacant and it jut became litter,” said Galloway.

And that is a problem with phone books. While Local Search said it’s involved in recycling old and unused books, they don’t necessarily take responsibility for returning to collect phone books that haven’t been touched since delivery.

And then there’s just the sheer volume. Twenty-five years ago, there was usually only one phone book to be found on the market. Now there are dozens in every region across the country.

The two main competitors in WNC are Yellowbook and AT&T’s The Real Yellow Pages, but nationally Norton said there are 200 separate companies hawking books.

That’s thanks to a 1991 Supreme Court decision that declared phone books outside the realm of copyright, as they held only a miniscule amount of original content.

But with the Internet so ubiquitous that Google has become a verb, even Norton conceded that when a younger generation of digital natives reaches adulthood, the printed books might become museum fodder. And, he said, his group is OK with that. They don’t want to pass out unwanted books — it’s as bad for them as it is annoying to the consumer.

“It does us absolutely no good to deliver a phone book to somebody who doesn’t want one. We don’t make any money by distributing additional copies,” said Norton. That’s why they’ve created an opt-out website,, that allows consumers to pass on the phone book. According to Norton, they’ve gotten around 400,000 opt-outs nationwide with the site, which doesn’t include those who call the book publishers directly to cancel.

But even if they are self-regulating, the industry has historically railed against legally mandated opt-in or opt-out programs.

In 2008, a bill was introduced in the state Senate, co-sponsored by local senator John Snow, that would force phone book companies to provide customers the option to decline. It died after the first reading, thanks in part to lobbying by the Yellow Pages Association.

“We think it’s wrong of the government to select winners and losers in the print media market,” said Norton. “We think that’s a very dangerous precedent for the government to set.”

Plus, he pointed out, with programs such as the one proposed in San Francisco, if 75 percent of people use the book at some point in the year, it’s impractical to ask them all to opt in.

Though do-not-deliver programs aren’t mandatory in North Carolina, Yellowbook Market Manager Michael Hartnett said he does field a call every now and again.

“Yes, it happens. But it’s a rare occurrence,” said Hartnett. He said the 91,000 Yellowbooks they’ll be distributing this year in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties have held pretty steady for the last few years. But nationally, the trend is going down.

This year, there are 8 percent fewer phone books hitting the streets than the year before. And many are smaller, thanks to the elimination of the residential white pages in many larger markets.

In this way, say industry advocates, phone book companies are doing their part to reduce their own waste stream. They’re making books smaller, and all books are completely recyclable. In fact, that’s what they’re made of — themselves. When old books are recycled, they’re combined with disused woodchips gleaned from the lumber-making process and pressed into new books, a cycle that repeats itself each year.

So even as the digital revolution marches on, that staple of the kitchen drawer still, for now, has a life and a place.

“We still have a lot of people using the phone books,” said Galloway, and for those that do, they’ll be pleased to know a new shipment is already headed their way.

• 1: percent all paper products accounted for by phone books
• 0.3: percent of municipal waste stream generated by phone books
• 731,000: tons of phone books distributed in 2010
• The first phone book was created in 1878 for New Haven, Conn., residents. 
• Interleafing two phone books will make them impossible to pull apart. 
• To opt out of phone book delivery, visit

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources released a study this week showing strong growth in recycling jobs in the state despite the effects of the recent recession.  

The research, conducted by DENR’s Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach, is the latest in a string of studies demonstrating the ongoing contribution of recycling to the state’s economic growth. Results published in 1994, 2000, 2004, 2008 and now in 2010 have each documented increases in recycling employment in North Carolina over time.

The study’s major findings include:

There are currently almost 15,200 private sector recycling-related jobs in North Carolina.

Private sector recycling jobs have increased 4.8 percent since 2008.

The total annual payroll for North Carolina recycling businesses is $395 million.

Forty-eight percent of recycling businesses surveyed anticipate creating more jobs during the next two years.

Twenty-five percent of businesses surveyed report manufacturing a product using recycled materials.

Recycling businesses target a wide variety of recyclables for collection, processing or use in manufacturing. No single recycling commodity dominates the market.

“We are pleased to see that recycling remains a dynamic source of green jobs in North Carolina,” said DENR Secretary Dee Freeman. “The study shows that recycling not only helps us reduce our dependence on landfills, save energy and prevent pollution, but that it also boosts the economy at a critical time.”

“North Carolinians have a real opportunity to contribute to our economic recovery by recycling at home, at work and on-the-go,” said Scott Mouw, director of the state’s recycling programs.  “By diverting recyclable materials out of the waste stream and back into the stream of commerce, we can grow the more than 900 recycling businesses across the state who are making key investments in the collection, processing and end-use of those commodities.”

North Carolina-based recycling businesses listed in the state’s online Recycling Markets Directory received an invitation to participate in the 2010 Recycling Business employment study update. Additional recycling employment data from the N.C. Employment Security Commission and Harris Infosource was included in the study for recycling-related businesses not listed in the Recycling Markets Directory.  

A copy of the study can be found online at

When the hour finally arrived for Haywood County commissioners to vote on a budget for the upcoming year, Haywood County Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick expressed his wish for a unanimous vote. That’s exactly what he got.

But that 5-0 victory for the budget came in spite of Commissioner Skeeter Curtis stating outright that he would vote against the budget just a minute prior.

Curtis’s dissent stemmed from a controversial plan to overhaul the county’s trash and recycling operations in order to save money.

Both Curtis and Kirkpatrick opposed one aspect of that plan — a move to privatize the county’s 10 convenience centers, where county residents without curbside trash pick-up dump household waste and recyclables.

However, all five commissioners agreed on another part of the overhaul: shutting down the line of workers who manually sort recycling before it is sold. Instead, the county will sell recyclables in bulk without putting them through a pick line.

Other than the contentious trash overhaul, Haywood County’s budget — which does not include a tax hike — sailed by this year.

Not a single person spoke for or against the budget at the official public hearing, even though more than 40 people attended. Speakers saved all their remarks for a separate public comment period on the trash overhaul.

“I’d hate to be having a split vote on the budget, based on the (trash issue),” said Kirkpatrick. “I really want to see the budget passed with five votes.”

Commissioner Kevin Ensley moved to approve the budget, with a second from Commissioner Mark Swanger. After an uncomfortable pause, Curtis said he would not vote to contract out jobs at convenience centers.

Kirkpatrick tried his final appeal, reminding Curtis that the solid waste changes are a relatively small part of a $65 million budget. Kirkpatrick added that the board had until August to amend the solid waste fee that have been proposed.

“You’re right,” said Curtis. “It’s a good budget. Everyone worked hard on it.”

Split vote on convenience centers

While all five commissioners voted to pass the budget, Curtis and Kirkpatrick got a chance later in the meeting to formally oppose privatizing jobs at the convenience centers. Commissioners voted three to two to contract those jobs at the county’s ten convenience centers to Consolidated Waste Services, LLC.

Commissioner Bill Upton, along with Swanger and Ensley, voted for the measure, touting the cost savings of $145,000 it would bring to the county. Closing the recycling pick line would bring an additional savings of $286,000.

But Kirkpatrick and Curtis voted against awarding the contract, with Curtis hoping to further study the issue with all stakeholders and Kirkpatrick hoping to postpone the layoffs. A few of the employees were close to retirement, and many had been supportive of the county’s wildly successful recycling efforts.

“I would hope there’s a way to take care of these folks,” said Kirkpatrick.

The contract that was approved does say that CWS should make a “reasonable effort” to hire the current county employees who currently man the convenience centers.

Swanger added that phasing out the soon to be retired employees in a fair manner would likely take a long time.

“The more I think about it, I’m on both sides,” added Upton. “And I know you can’t be on both sides.”

Both Swanger and Upton had served in a solid waste task force that carefully researched the issue. The county appointed a solid waste task force to come up with cost savings in light of the $4.5 million landfill expansion that taxpayers must now pay off.

Due to the landfill expansion, residents will see a $22 increase in the $70 household solid waste fee — but that’s compared to a $40 dollar increase residents would see if not for the cost-saving measures.

Curtis and Kirkpatrick had wanted to hike up the household solid waste fee by $40, which — along with supporting the landfill — would also include $4.50 per household to save the convenience center employees’ jobs, while $13.50 would be dedicated to saving up for eventually closing the White Oak landfill decades from now.

The bill for complying with regulations with the closure of White Oak would come out to a whopping $16.6 million in “2009 dollars.”

“We need to start putting money aside for closure,” said Curtis. “We’re talking about big dollars for future generations out there.”

Kirkpatrick said $110 really isn’t a lot of money, coming out to $10 a month to get rid of all household trash and recycling.

A third part of the trash overhaul, which would be a year away, is to close the transfer station, where town trash trucks and private haulers unload trash. From there, the county hauls it the rest of the way to the White Oak landfill.

At the meeting, commissioners agreed to solicit bids for privatizing the landfill, transfer station and convenience centers — solely for educational purposes.

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