Archived Opinion

Recycling requirement passes costs on to rightful party

One is a new law that just took effect Jan. 1, and the other is a hoped-for statute that we believe is absolutely necessary for the continued prosperity of Western North Carolina. Both are good for the region.

On Jan. 1 a new law hit the books in North Carolina that will require all bars and restaurants to recycle all alcoholic beverage containers. Prior to the law’s passage, business owners could just chuck the glass and aluminum into the trash, taking up valuable landfill space.

This meant that restaurant and bar owners who profit from selling the alcoholic beverage were not paying the total cost of that product. For example, many counties charge residential property owners an annual solid waste usage fee. That cost is determined by the county’s cost to operate and purchase land for its landfill, its recycling center and other dumping stations at different places.

So some business owners, under this scenario, were having their trash disposal — which can run to hundreds of pounds per week — subsidized by those who only put their residential waste into the system. And to add insult to injury, many business owners were simply not recycling. That means all that recyclable material was taking up valuable landfill space.

The new law was not easy to implement. Business owners in towns or counties that don’t offer curbside recycling have had to contract with private providers. The state Restaurant and Lodging Association got the General Assembly to include a provision that will give business owners a one-year exemption to devise their own system if their local government does not provide the service.

The reality is that laws like these — which target those who actually produce solid waste to pay the cost of its disposal — will become more common. It’s the fairest way to spread the cost of what will certainly become more expensive as time goes by.

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Supporting steep slope bill

We who live in Western North Carolina have been grappling for years with the issue of what kinds of limits to impose on mountainside development. It’s an issue that’s not likely to go away, but Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Mars Hill, is working for passage of a bill that would address at least one basic concern — safety.

Rapp introduced the “Safe Artificial Slope Construction Act” in the last session of the General Assembly and did not get much support. Now, a series of public hearings are being held (4 to 7 p.m., Jan. 10, Enka Campus of AB Tech) on the proposal, and the best-case scenario is that these hearing would lead to the passage of a bill.

The thrust of Rapp’s proposal would force landowners in areas deemed moderate to high risk — as determined by maps under development by the N.C. Geological Survey — to pay for a slope development plan from an engineer before starting construction. Slopes generally would have to exceed 40 percent for the mandate to kick in.

Also, Realtors would be forced to either reveal that a piece of land was in a high-risk area or at least tell the buyer they did not know its status. Then the buyer could pay — if they wanted — for an assessment to determine a particular tract’s characteristics.

The concept of Rapp’s bill is sound. We must use known science to determine where we should build so we can avoid some of the tragic problems associated with building homes on steep slopes.

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