CHAPEL HILL – If you’re an avid recycler, or even just a casual one, you’ve contributed to Orange County reaching a state high in waste reduction of 59 percent, nearing its goal of 61 percent.

In the 1991-92 fiscal year, Orange County set a goal to reduce the amount of waste people produced.  At the time, the average amount of waste created per person was 1.36 metric tons.

“59 percent waste reduction means that in 2011-2012, as a whole, we had a waste reduction of 59% against that initial 1.36 tons per person,” says county solid waste planner Blair Pollock. “(We) measure what’s not there, if you will.”

Orange County offers an abundance of recycling options for households, schools, and businesses.  Pollock says composting food and vegetative waste is also an alternative form of recycling that saves space in landfills.

In 1995, when Orange County conducted its second waste characterization study, they found that still over half of the county’s waste was recyclable.  Pollock says that in the past 16 years Orange County has made big strides at improving recycling.

“Not only did we really step the rate of recycling in Orange County, but we also stepped up the overall rate of waste reduction,” Pollock says. “We’ve done things like mak(ing) compost bins available to people on an ongoing basis from our office and conduct(ing) backyard composting education along with that, and we’ve set up a whole variety of recycling programs.”

In the 2011-12 year, Orange County recycled about 31 percent of its total waste.  However, this number does not include commonly recycled cardboard and a few other items that are often disposed of through outside measures.

Pollock says the future of recycling in Orange County may change soon: “Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough just received several proposals from other recycling companies,” he says, “so they are evaluating those and making a determination whether they will continue with the collective program that has been pretty successful for the last 26 years or whether they will decide to strike out in a different direction.”

Still, the success of recycling programs in Orange County have made recycling and efficient waste management a taken-for-granted way of life. At events like the Carrboro Music Festival, Pollock says, readily-available recycling reduced the amount of waste produced by up to 90 percent.  And Pollock says UNC also holds high standards when it comes to waste to management and making recycling easy for people on campus, helping the county set a high standard of consciousness around recycling.

“Let me just add a shout-out to our stall work recycling friends over at UNC,” he says. “For as long as we have been managing recycling in the part of the county that’s not affiliated with the university, they’ve been doing, as a parallel track, a terrific job.”

For more information on Orange County Recycling click here.