RALEIGH, N.C. – If you’re unsure what to do with paper and plastic waste from holiday purchases, environmental advocates warn that North Carolina is moving backward when it comes to recycling.
According to a new report, in 2017 the state landfilled more than nine million tons of waste.
Jean-Luc Duvall, wildlife defense campaign director of Environment North Carolina – the organization that authored the findings – says cities and towns across the state have scaled back the list of recyclable materials they will accept, including glass and some plastics.
“The public is typically confused by conflicting and changing accepted materials list, and the lack of consistent recycling messaging,” says Duvall. “One of the issues as well, is that product designers aren’t thinking about the end of the life of the product when they go into the actual design process.”
Duvall adds that this holiday season, the more North Carolinians are able to reduce and reuse their waste before turning to recycling, the better for the environment.
Due to global events in 2018, cities across the country have cut back recycling. Duvall says the shift is causing the U.S. to reckon with its weak recycling system.
“China stopped taking our plastics. They instituted new standards for the food contamination that was allowed,” says Duvall. “China has not ruined recycling in America, as headlines might claim. It’s more so shining a light on some longstanding issues.”
He adds state legislators could take steps to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and expand curbside recycling and composting.
“Here in North Carolina, we have to work from the top down,” says Duvall. “Local municipalities and counties are not allowed to ban plastic bags or Styrofoam. It has to be done at the state level.”
According to the report, North Carolinians generate about 5.5 pounds of trash per resident each day.