Orange County managed to have its landfill waste down to 0.49 tons per resident in 2014. That represents a huge reduction over the last 22 years, one that neighboring counties don’t come close to claiming.

From 1991 to 1992, Orange County residents threw away 1.3 tons of trash per person in a single year.

That’s gone down 64 percent since then.

“This is a fairly significant community achievement and accomplishment for Orange County and the towns,” said Gayle Wilson, director of Orange County Solid Waste Management. “We operate a unified integrated recycling program, so we serve all three of the towns and the county – the rural areas.”

Wilson added that having a unified message, a single set of standards, and a single information source for all jurisdictions has helped grow participation in the recycling program.

Back when Orange County set a 61 percent reduction goal in 1997, it was, by far, the highest in North Carolina, exceeding that state statutory goal by 21 percent.

Now, the county has managed to surpass even its own lofty goal by three percent.

“One of the key factors is the commitment the community has, and the participation that they provide in our recycling program. So, the community is very eager. You don’t have to entice them. You don’t have to give incentives. Just make the service available, make it reasonably convenient and reliable, and we get high participation.”

Wilson also gave credit to elected officials in all participating jurisdictions for their support.

Comparing neighboring counties: Alamance has reduced solid waste by 23 percent; Chatham is at 41 percent; Durham is at 13 percent; and Raleigh is at 29 percent.