Waste

A picture of flattened soda cans
gfpeck / Flickr

A growing contingent of manufacturers is working to make products with packaging that won't end up in a landfill.

They'll have a workshop devoted to education and idea-swapping at this week's Zeroing in on Waste Reduction event in Asheville. Carolina Recycling Association hosts the annual conference and trade show, which will gather 700 exhibitors, businesses, speakers and participants.

Diane Davis is the executive director of the CRA. She said making products that limit waste can be cost-effective while being environmentally friendly.

Trash at a state landfill.
N.C. Division of Waste Management

The amount of garbage headed to the Wake County has dropped significantly in the past few years.

In 2009, the county buried 460,000 tons of garbage. That dropped to 400,000 last year.

Wake County Solid Waste Manager John Roberson says a number of factors impacted the reduction in waste going to the landfill: People bought and threw out less during the recession, recycling options improved, and commercial waste businesses disposed of garbage elsewhere.

Roberson says his division saw a $2 million drop in revenue over the past four years.

Margaret Morales and Phil Corrigan

In the 1950s, the Keep America Beautiful campaign encouraged Americans to stop littering and simply throw away their trash.

But where exactly is that "away"? Once we toss something into a garbage or recycling bin, it leaves our lives, but where does it go?

A self-contained sewage recycling system being designed by Duke and Missouri engineers.
Duke University

Two years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a research competition called “Reinvent the Toilet,” challenging researchers to create a sewage disposal system that requires no electricity and could be used in developing countries. Marc Deshusses, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, pitched an idea to the Foundation and won $100,000 to take it further.

Trash at a state landfill.
N.C. Division of Waste Management

North Carolina residents are throwing less trash in the state’s 40 landfills than they have in 22 years. Numbers began trending downward three years ago, and the state average is now less than a ton per person per year. Ellen Lorscheider from the state division of solid waste says that the plastic bottle ban of 2010 is cutting the amount of waste. While that trend is good news for the environment, she says it could also have something to do with the ongoing financial crisis.

North Carolina is hoping to find better uses for discarded food. A new study from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources finds that residents and businesses generate over a million tons of food waste a year. Scott Mouw is director of the state recycling program.

Scott Mouw: We now should turn our attention to diverting that material from landfills and to other kinds of uses, whether it's using the food for donation to food banks, or to composting, or to other uses that may eventually turn into energy like in anaerobic digestion.

Waste Not

Jul 10, 2012

Tate Rogers never expected to enter the world of waste management, but when presented with the challenge of finding a way to safely extract human waste from latrines in third-world countries, this environmental engineering student found himself struck with a brilliant idea. The idea was so simple, Rogers figured it had already been invented. It hadn't. He received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop his waste removal technology.

A clean-up is underway along the shoreline of Jordan Lake. Corporate sponsors are picking up propane tanks, bottles and cans near the southern end of the lake where the Haw River brings in debris from storm water runoff. Fran DiGiano is the president of the group Clean Jordan Lake. He says volunteers will try to finish the job this weekend.

Opposition is mounting against reopening Greensboro’s only landfill to solid household waste. The proposal upsets nearby residents who say it could harm their health and future development. A previous city council voted to close the landfill, which is located in a residential area. Former Councilwoman Goldie Wells is part of the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro.

"It shouldn’t have been brought up again because we had fought the battle once before. It’s not good for the community, not good for economic growth in this area, and really for the city of Greensboro."