University City

Talking trash has its advantages

Let’s talk trash. Literally. Mecklenburg County officials recently hosted one of four “Let’s Talk Trash” workshops in the University City area. The goal was to help educate the public about proposed changes to handling trash, and they wanted feedback from citizens.

The topic reminded me of how I led my now-adult daughter’s third-grade class on a field trip to the Metrolina Recycling Center. Even as a child, she often commented on the importance of “people being friendly to the earth.”

The bottom line of the “trash talk” workshop was simple: The county could save a lot of money if citizens weren’t allowed to put into their trash cans items that are banned from the landfill.

The state bans disposing of several items in landfills, but they’re not banned in our home trash containers.

“Having the new ordinance would do three things: 1) preserve landfill space, 2) prevent toxic materials from getting into landfills and 3) it will save money,” says Bruce Gledhill, director of solid waste for the county.

Items that would be banned from trash containers include plastic bottles, aluminum cans, yard waste, discarded electronics (computers, televisions, etc.), white goods (appliances), used oil, oil filters, antifreeze, whole scrap tires, car batteries, wooden pallets, florescent light bulbs and thermostats that contain mercury.

This will help reduce waste in landfills. Businesses and residents currently dispose of million tons of waste in landfills each year.

Plastic bottles and aluminum cans can be placed into your regular recycle bins. The other items can be taken to your local recycling center. There are four full-service recycling drop-off centers. There are nine self-service recycling drop-off centers, and one specifically for yard waste.

University City resident Christy Kluesner attended the “Let’s Talk Trash” workshop, held at the IKEA meeting room.

“What can be done to give people incentive to recycle?” she asked.

The response from Gledhill was, “We start early, trying to teach recycling.”

He explained that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system gets handouts for elementary schools, and there are tours available at the Metrolina Recycling Center. But he hopes that having a new ordinance in place will help citizens understand that properly disposing of banned items will make a difference.

Gledhill believes a new ordinance would be an incentive for people to properly dispose of items.

“In 10 years of working in this department, businesses have complied with their restrictions for the most part,” says Gledhill, who considers himself an optimist. “Most people obey the law.”

He also pointed out that municipalities have already invested in taking trash from landfills by getting the roll-out recycling bins.

After the workshop, Kluesner told me she and her husband had been environmentally conscious since their 30s.

“I’m not judging others, but maybe the county could study what motivates people to properly recycle,” she said. “It is a habit we have to get into.”

Before the ban is established, it will go through the citizen’s advisory board, Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners and City Council, and it has to be adopted by six other town boards: Davidson, Cornelius, Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Pineville. That process will take several months.

Gledhill wants the public to clearly understand that the proposed ban would not change residential collection services.

“More can be done to help the planet,” Kluesner said. “It really matters … and it feels good to do what we can. We have to care and we have to be vigilant.”

As my daughter said years ago, “People should be friendly to the earth.”