Editorial: Davie always a leader in recycling 

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 17, 2020

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We’ve had it made here in Davie County for years. We’ve taken it for granted. And now, we’re going to have to pay the cost.

Recycling isn’t free.

Well, in Davie County, it sort of is. An agreement between Republic Services and the county government provides free curbside recycling to all residents. That agreement is running out next year.

And according to Republic, there are two main reasons the recycling costs will increase dramatically, although when you start at zero any increase will seem dramatic: the value of the recyclables has diminished; and, too many people put things in the recycling bin that shouldn’t be there, and they put “dirty” recyclables in the bin.

Sorting of those recycle container contents is done by machine. That’s why Styrofoam is no longer recyclable. It sticks to other items. When something non-recyclable comes through, it gets kicked out, causing more cost to the company. When something dirty, such as a peanut butter jar that still has remnants of peanut butter inside, it gets kicked out, causing more cost to the company.

County leaders are mulling the prospects of how to offer recycling services without breaking their — or your — bank. We anxiously wait for the results.
Would you be willing to pay $5 per month for curbside recycling? $10 a month? Would you be more careful about what you put in the recycling container if it cost you  money?

Republic says for best results, all recyclables should be separate (not bagged), clean and dry. That’s nearly impossible for 100% of items.

Do you know how long it takes for the last remnants of a soft drink or beer can to dry? A long time. Do you know how much water it takes to clean the inside of a peanut butter jar? A lot.

We’re supposed to conserve water, too, so which way do we go here? The price we pay for water is going up as well, as the county plans to build a new treatment plant in Cooleemee and Mocksville will de-commission its own water plant. That plan is necessary, as the county’s and the town’s water plants are nearing the end of their lives, and will not be able to meet water quality requirements. But the cost will be hefty to consumers. Tax money isn’t supposed to be used for these purposes, the costs are born by its consumers. So expect your town and county water bills to show increases for the next several years.

Sure, recycling makes sense. We’ve unfortunately become a throw-away society. Anything that could be kept out of a landfill should be kept out of a landfill. We’ve done a pretty good job of educating people about the importance of recycling, but we’ve done a poor job of actually recycling. That goes for people and companies. A company isn’t going into the recycling business unless they can make a profit. That’s part of capitalism, and it works pretty darn good.

Surely, Republic knows its customers. Surely, they knew free recycling bins would mean that non-recyclables would be included. Surely, they knew that few people would — or could — follow their “clean, dry and separate” policy for recyclables.

But remember, those policies went into effect after the company went to automated recycling with a machine.

Davie County has long been at the forefront of recycling. The late Junior Barbee, landfill director, pretty much created his own recycling program, providing containers for residents to put items in (not curbside). Prisoners were brought in to help sort the items. These were prisoners near the end of their sentences, and they got time off for their work. And then he sold the sorted recyclables at a profit. Neighboring counties were jealous.

We’ve built on that tradition. Neighboring counties are still jealous.

Let’s hope the county comes up with a plan that will keep that jealousy in place for years to come.

Mike Barnhardt is editor of the Davie County Enterprise-Record.