Post OC Landfill, A Carrboro Perspective On Waste Disposal Solutions

CHAPEL HILL – With the closing of the Orange County landfill in June,  our local governments must develop both short-term and long-term solutions for waste disposal. The question remains as to what extent the three municipalities will collaborate in this process.

At WCHL’s Carrboro Board of Aldermen Candidates Forum last week, moderator Aaron Keck asked hopefuls to what degree should Carrboro work with Orange County to find solutions for solid waste and recycling disposal.

The five candidates competing for three open seats on the Board include incumbents Sammy Slade, Jacquelyn Gist and Randee Haven-O’Donnell. The challengers are Kurt Stolka, Vice-Chair of Carrboro’s Transportation Advisory Board, and Al Vickers, a former member of the Solid Waste Advisory Board with a Ph. D. in environmental science. Vickers was absent from the Forum last Monday due to a prior engagement out of the country.

Haven-O’Donnell said she hoped to work with both Orange County and Chapel Hill to address the area’s solid waste needs. She added that the Board should reassess Carrboro’s Comprehensive Plan and update the Town’s long-term vision for waste disposal.

“The recycling is something that we need to form partnerships to solve. We cannot do recycling on our own; solid waste as well,” Haven-O’Donnell said. “I’m really hoping that we can work with the Town of Chapel Hill to find solutions that will address our issues in Southern Orange [County].”

Gist said that local elected officials should not divide solid waste responsibilities by municipality, but work as a collective unit.

“We need to remember that Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro are not separate entities,” Gist said. “Carrboro is in Orange County. Carrboro taxpayers pay Orange County taxes. It is the largest part of our tax bill. Carrboro voters vote for Orange County Commissioners, so we are really not completely separate entities. We have a lot of skin in that game.”

Stolka proposed that Carrboro look to regional collaboration and pull together resources from neighboring counties.

“In collaborating with Orange County in the future, somebody is going to have to lose for us to find a new landfill site,” Stolka said. “Maybe there are certain things that we can put on the table to convince a rural area to be open to it.”

Orange County’s recycling program is one of the top programs in North Carolina. It reached a State high rate in waste reduction with 59 percent, nearing its goal of 61 percent for the year.  Slade said this was an major accomplishment but that more could be done.

“It’s been a great collaboration. Our recycling is a leading example, and we have set a goal of 60 percent reduction, and we’ve achieved that through recycling,” Slade said. “It’s past due time to ramp that goal up toward zero waste.”

Slade added that Carrboro should explore composting.  Town residents have brown bins for yard waste collection. Slade said these bins could very easily accept other organic materials, such as kitchen waste.

Since the landfill’s closure this summer, Orange County’s solid waste is being taken to the transfer station of the Waste Disposal and Recycling Center transfer station in Durham until County Commissioners can develop a long-term solution.

June 29 was the last day that waste was accepted in the Orange County Landfill. The site’s shutdown marked the end of 41 years of activity in Orange County.

Ceremony Formally Marks OC Landfill Shutdown

CHAPEL HILL-Dozens of local residents and elected officials gathered Saturday afternoon at the Orange County landfill as the facility ceremoniously closed its doors for good.

Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association and Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP President Minister Robert Campbell was instrumental in the effort to shut the landfill down—and to highlight the occasion, he delivered a few remarks during the event.

“We want to thank Orange County for closing this landfill, and let us keep up the fight, because there are other communities that can benefit from what Orange County is doing,” he said.

To begin the ceremony, the attendees marched from the Orange County solid waste administrative headquarters to the landfill itself, located about a block away. After Campbell’s speech, with the crowd cheering, he placed the lock on the landfill gate for the final time.

Numerous public figures made appearances at the event including Orange County Commissioners Renee Price, Penny Rich, and Chair Barry Jacobs. Senator Ellie Kinnaird, and Carrboro Aldermen Sammy Slade, Lydia Lavelle, and Michelle Johnson were also in attendance

The landfill is situated near the historically black Rogers Road neighborhood. For several decades, neighborhood residents have said the site has caused problems with vermin, noise, and unpleasant smells.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood since 1963, and we’ve been fighting the landfill ever since,” says Barbara Hopkins, who’s a longtime member of the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association. “This is a victory for me, and I’m so happy just to see that gate locked.”

While most of the ceremony’s attendees were glad to see the end of the Orange County landfill, many were also there to denounce a bill that would loosen some of the requirements for new landfills in the state. Supporters of the statewide legislation, which is formally known as Senate Bill 328, have said it would help meet certain waste-related demands; meanwhile, opponents have said, among other things, that it would allow too much out-of-state trash to come into North Carolina.

Campbell says if the bill is approved, it will be a setback for surrounding communities.

“We’re thanking Orange County for closing the landfill, but we want to keep it closed forever,” he says. “We’re looking to enhance the quality of life for everyone over the state. We don’t want a mega-landfill in Orange County where trash might be coming in out of Philadelphia or New York.”

Orange County’s solid waste will now be temporarily taken to the Waste Disposal and Recycling Center transfer station in Durham until County Commissioners can develop a more long -term solution. Jacobs says the permanent fix should involve an alternative technology, possibly in partnership with neighbors of Orange County.

“The technologies are expensive and they’re not necessarily proven, certainly not in North Carolina,” he says. “We might not have a large enough waste stream to go at it on our own, so we have to find partners.”

County Commissioners first made the decision to close the landfill in October of 2011. Saturday was the last day that waste was accepted, and Sunday is the official day of closure. The site’s shutdown marks the end of 41 years of activity in Orange County.


The crowd marches from the administrative building to the landfill for the ceremony