Lake Norman & Mooresville

Town irons out recycling wrinkles

Almost three months since launching a new contract for residential garbage collection and recycling, Cornelius officials are still fine-tuning some loose ends.

The early hiccups, such as a shortage of new containers, as well as missed pick-ups, have largely been resolved.

However, the town is still struggling with the best means of encouraging voluntary recycling for those who live in condos, townhomes and apartment buildings.

The town provides both trash and recycling pick-up for townhomes and condos. However, the lack of adequate space to store recycling containers limits the level of residential participation at many of these facilities.

"The major problem with condo recycling is that these facilities normally do not have a good place to put a Dumpster for recycling so they have to build something which costs them more money," said Nicole Grandelli, a property manager at CSI in Davidson, which manages several large condo facilities in Cornelius.

Meanwhile, apartment building owners usually pay for their trash and recycling pick-up.

However, Cornelius has implemented a pilot project at Bexley at Lake Norman, a large apartment complex formerly called Sterling Bay.

"We've implemented this program to see how recycling worked in apartments," said Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant. "In this case, the town is paying for the recycling pick-up, for now, while the regular trash Dumpster pick-up is paid by the apartment complex."

As with the townhomes and condos, the issue of having space to store an adequate number of bins is a problem.

"I've got 280 apartments in my building," said Robert Winkler, maintenance assistant of Bexley at Lake Norman, at the north end of Holiday Lane.

"We're about 92 percent occupied, yet the town has given us only 11 bins."

Winkler says even the larger bins fill up before the recycling pick-up, which is every other week. In order to avoid an overflow, he has to dump them into the regular waste Dumpster.

"To me, this completely defeats the purpose of separating the waste for recycling," said Winkler.

He also claims the switch from a recycling collection every week to every two weeks further complicates the issue.

Providing more recycling bins "depends on the number of units in a condo or apartment building, anticipated volume of recyclables, and physical limitations (if any) of each site," said Grant.

"We do try to make the recycling work as best as possible," said Grant.

The change to Republic Waste Services for private homes and individual townhomes seems to be going well according to town officials.

Under the new contract which began on July 1, each homeowner is provided one green 96-gallon garbage cart and one blue 64-gallon recycling cart. The garbage is collected weekly and the recycling every two weeks. Under the previous contract, recycling containers were much smaller, but they were emptied weekly.

"We switched to the every other week schedule for several reasons," said Grant.

"We wanted to get more capacity for recycling, and going from 16-gallon bins to a 64-gallon cart with a bi-weekly schedule, actually doubles the capacity of recyclables.

" We also feel that the carts are easier to maneuver for our residents, especially the seniors, plus we had a lot of issues with debris blowing out of the bins and going all over the streets," said Grant.

Grant also noted Mecklenburg County's Recycling Center where the recyclables are taken was recently converted to allow for single-stream recycling. With single-stream, the entire process is more efficient and faster since recyclable items such as cans, bottles and newspapers no longer have to be separated by hand, lowering the costs of recycling.

Despite the obstacles, Grant says the town is committed to making the new collection schedule work for everyone.

"Here in Cornelius, while our recycling program is voluntary, it is also heavily encouraged. We will respond to individual issues as we hear about them."