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Starting on January 8, 2018, mattresses and box springs will be accepted at the Walnut Grove Church Rd. Waste & Recycling Center and at the Orange County Landfill, 1514 Eubanks Rd. during hours of operation for no charge. LIMIT FOUR PIECES PER PERSON PER DAY OR WEEKEND PERIOD.  A mattress is defined as a peice of bedding with a spring in it.  Futon pads, crib beds, and other bedding without springs can be discarded with "Bulky Items" at all Waste and Recycling Centers. 

When remodeling of Eubanks Rd. Waste & Recycling Center is finished, mattresses and box springs will be accepted there, during hours when the landfill property is not open. Mattresses that are dropped off at the landfill location will be recycled, rather than taken directly to a transfer station

High Rock Waste and Recycling Center Improvement Plan Summary and FAQ --
July 2017

Orange County expresses sincere appreciation to the Walters Family who has hosted this Waste and Recycling Center since 1993.  The size of the property they have made available for this activity will not change, though favorable negotiations are currently underway to continue the lease agreement with the County well into the future.

District Center/Neighborhood Center concept:

Approximately 5 years ago, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners agreed on a plan to create two “District Centers” that would be upgraded to have just about all of the Solid Waste services available anywhere for residents to use.  The first of such district centers exists at Walnut Grove Church Rd. and the second District Center is currently under construction on Eubanks Rd.  According to this plan, the other three Waste and Recycling Centers in Orange County would be retrofitted to be what is termed “Neighborhood Centers”.  They would provide basic waste and recycling services, efficiently managed, and the slimmed down services would offset the cost of the expanded services at the “District Centers”. The large district centers were designed to not only to maximize waste management and diversion options for residents, they are also designed to manage the number of residents that would come to use the services no longer available at the “Neighborhood Centers”.

The first of the centers to be remodeled using the “Neighborhood Center” model would be High Rock Rd. Center.  Construction would begin after Eubanks Rd. Center was completed, as soon as weather permits in early 2018. The proposed changes include paving the site, and having a well and small septic to improve the sanitary conditions for the employees, having compactors for household trash, corrugated cardboard and commingled recyclables.  Because of the additional space needed for the compactor, and consistent with the “Neighborhood Center” concept, the following services would be removed:

  • Tires
  • Yard Waste
  • Clean Wood
  • White Goods (aka large appliances)
  • Large Bulky items
  • Rigid Plastics 

Center users have been asked to provide a simple ranking 1-6 of the above six services with #1 being the highest use, and #6 being the lowest.   If you use the High Rock Rd. Center and are interested in ranking these services in order of their use for you, or providing any other comments please do so by contacting Orange County Solid Waste Management: 919-968-2788 or email  The Department will be making recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners later this fall.

The Center would have new services added:

  • Food Waste collection for composting
  • Cooking oil collection
  • Textile recycling
  • Plastic bag and film recycling

Question: If all of these services are removed, where is the closest place to bring the listed materials?

Answer:  Walnut Grove Church Rd. Waste and Recycling Center is about 10 miles away from the High Rock Rd. Center and has a full suite of services, and in addition a Household Hazardous Waste Collection.

Question: All of the services fit now, why will they not fit after the Center is paved?

Answer:  Installing the compactors will require space for large trucks to back up to the boxes to lift them and load them for removal, after staging the empty box to replace the full one they are removing.   The trucks need adequate room to turn and back up.

There is potentially some room for a few of the services to be added back in, along the back of the Center, and still allow adequate truck space, but not room for all.

Question:  Paving will increase the impervious surface and increase the amount of runoff.  Also it is very expensive and will require upkeep.

Answer:  The current gravel surface is already considered an impervious surface and is permitted as such.  The buffer for runoff is adequate for the footprint of the site, and will remain so if the site is paved.  It is much easier to clean up spills from asphalt as opposed to gravel, so less spillage from the motor oil and antifreeze collection  will be going into the runoff water.  Asphalt will reduce the amount of particulates in the air, reducing dust and improving air quality for workers and users, and will reduce suspended particulates in the water, so paving may actually improve water quality running off the site. 

Gravel has to be replaced and repaired on a regular basis.  That cost will be eliminated with paving.

Additionally, flat asphalt is easier for users with physical constraints to move about on.

Question:  Very few people need the new services that are going in, and all of the services that are being removed are ones that are used. 

Answer:  The new collections are inexpensive for the County to add and service, and take up very little space. These new additions would not be taking up any space that the large collection containers the other (potentially removed) services utilize. 

Question: Will the Solid Waste Programs Fee go up as a result of these changes.

Answer:  No, the changes are to accommodate growth while maintaining services County-wide, improving hauling efficiency, lowering site maintenance requirements and providing sanitary facilities for staff.

Question: Are these changes related to the expansion of the rural curbside recycling program? 

Answer:  No—generally people recycle more when it is convenient for them.  The rural curbside recycling program is part of an effort to make recycling more convenience for more people.  Some people still find it more convenient to bring their recyclable materials to the Centers.

Question: Won’t switching to one single compactor for trash and recycling slow down traffic and cause backups?

Answer:  Traffic will be able to go on either side of the compactors.  Center operators will be stationed at the compactor as they will need to run the machine to clear the hopper on a regular basis, and will help keep the traffic flowing.   People might find they need to load their vehicles differently to account for a new configuration at the Center.  Experience at Walnut Grove shows that users  get accustomed to the new configuration  pretty quickly and that helps traffic flow smoothly.


Question: How long will the Center be closed during construction?

Answer: A temporary site will be established next to the actual site that will continue some of the current services such as household trash, cardboard and mixed recyclables.  Other materials may be included, as planning is ongoing.


Question: Will the completed site require additional staff to be hired?

Answer: No additional staff are expected to be needed for the finished site.

Orange County Construction and Demolition Landfill hours of operation to increase starting July 1, 2017

Effective July 1, 2017, the Orange County Construction and Demolition Landfill at 1514 Eubanks Rd. will have new hours:  Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon.  All associated services such as mulch and compost sales will also experience the hours change.  Previously, these facilities closed at 3:00 p.m. Monday -Friday. It is the hope of the Board of Commissioners and the Solid Waste Management Department that the extended hours will make use of the facility more convenient.  

Bagged Brooks Compost for sale at the Orange County Landfill starting July 1

Bags containing one cubic foot of Brooks Compost will be available at the Orange County Landfill, 1514 Eubanks Rd. for only $5.50 per bag starting July 1, 2017!  Landfill hours starting July 1 are Monday – Friday 7AM-4PM and Saturday from 8AM-12 noon.  Bags of compost are available at the Landfill Scalehouse. Purchasers should be prepared to load themselves, and to pay with cash or check only.  Bags weigh approximately 40 pounds each.

For over a decade, Orange County has sold Brooks Compost in bulk to purchasers with a pick-up truck or trailer, currently at $30 for a cubic yard scoop.  By popular demand, purchasers with only a car or a more modest need for compost quantities can now purchase this premium compost too, made in part from food waste collected here in Orange County.  One bag can cover four square feet of ground, three inches deep.

Brooks Contractors, located in Chatham County, NC, operates the second largest outdoor commercial composting facility In North Carolina.  Orange County has contracted with Brooks since 2001 to collect food waste from local grocery stores, restaurants, special events, and now residents at our two drop-off locations.  Brooks uses food waste from Orange County and other sources, along with locally sourced wood and leaves to create beautiful, brown, crumbly, “Class-A” compost, suitable as a soil amendment to naturally enhance the nutritive value of your soil, improving plant and crop growth, while also helping soils to retain moisture and prevent erosion.  


Eubanks Road Waste and Recycling Center will close for remodeling.   Nearby interim Waste Center with limited services on Millhouse Rd. for the duration of the construction. 

The Eubanks Rd. Waste and Recycling Center is officially closed in order to begin a significant remodeling and modernization project.  It is anticipated that renovations will be completed early 2018.  A temporary Waste Management Center is located on Millhouse Rd. less than a mile north of the Eubanks Road Center.  The temporary Center is staffed, will operate the same hours as the current Eubanks Road Center, but will have only limited services for the disposal of household garbage, bulky items, scrap metal, yard waste and electronics.  

Residents that normally use the Eubanks Road Waste and Recycling Center are asked to alternatively use the fully-operational sites at Ferguson Road. or Walnut Grove Church Road, bring their mixed recycling and corrugated cardboard to one of the 24-hour recycling drop-off sites, the closest at Cedar Falls Park on Weaver Dairy Road.  Tires, large appliances and corrugated cardboard can be taken to the Orange County Landfill at no charge during hours of operation, Monday- Friday 7:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. and Saturdays 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon.  Batteries and automotive wastes can go to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection facility on Eubanks Road, Monday- Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., and Saturdays 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon.

We sincerely thank our users, nearby residents and businesses for their patience during the construction period.

Similar to the Walnut Grove Church Road Waste and Recycling Center remodel completed several years ago, the new and improved Eubanks Road Waste and Recycling Center will have all paved surfaces to control dust, mud, and run-off.  There will be lower level containers to ease disposal of bulky items, appliances, clean wood, tires, metal, and yard waste.  New compactors for household garbage, cardboard, and mixed recycling will increase space and hauling efficiency, while separate routing for County collection trucks will improve flow for residents and safety for all.  There will also be additional materials added to the suite of recycling services, including food waste drop-off, used cooking oil, textiles, plastic bags, and an improved “salvage shed”.

The Orange County Solid Waste Advisory Group (SWAG) sponsored a public information session on managing food waste and other compostable materials. 

The SWAG meeting Wednesday, November 4, featured speaker international food waste collection expert Janine Ralph with HDR, an international engineering firm with expertise in all aspects of solid waste management.

 The purpose of this session was to present information about the diversion and processing of food and other organic compostable wastes.  Ms. Ralph presented performance data about a variety of programs in the U.S. and Canada. Her talk also covered municipal roles in managing residential and commercial organic materials, collection options and container types that could fit the needs of the County and Towns and processing options and observations as to why food waste collection programs succeed and fail.

The intention of the Solid Waste Advisory Group, made up of two elected officials from each jurisdiction and representatives from UNC-CH and UNC Health Care, in presenting this session is to begin consideration of options for further reduction of waste landfilled from everywhere within Orange County. 


ORANGE COUNTY, NC (January 27, 2015)—Orange County Solid Waste is delivering recycling roll carts to residents currently residing in the unincorporated or rural portion of the county that receives bi-weekly curbside recycling collection.

Approximately 8,000 blue recycling roll carts with black lids have been delivered to residents who have previously requested one.  If you do not have a blue cart, and would like to have one to use for your County provided curbside recycling service, or for more information, please call Orange County Solid Waste at 919-968-2788 or email  

Click here for Rural recycling routes. Look for your street on the alphabetical list then click on the route number to find out your schedule. If your street is not listed, it is not currently on one of our recycling routes.

Residents may start using their new roll cart as soon as it is delivered, on their next scheduled recycling day, at their usual recycling location.  Carts are delivered with a full color brochure tied to the handle containing detailed instructions about proper material preparation, cart placement as well as information regarding other solid waste programs and services.  

Residents who receive a cart can either keep their 18-gallon orange recycling bins for household use, or recycle the bins by dropping them off at one of the five Solid Waste Convenience Centers located throughout Orange County.  Some bins will be repurposed for reuse in area schools or available to residents upon request.

Please note we are offering 95-gallon roll carts as an OPTION for curbside recycling in the rural curbside service area only.  Rural residents who want to use the orange bins for bi-weekly curbside recycling can and should continue to use their bins at the curb as normal.  Carts will only be delivered to those who have requested a cart.  

Cart Rules and Regulations

If a residence has a cart at the curb, only the cart will be collected, not a mix of bins and carts at a household, or any materials left on the ground.   Carts must also be at the curb or edge of the road, prior to 7:00 a.m. on the scheduled collection day; allow three feet between the cart and other objects, such as trees or mailboxes; and must have the cart opening facing the street.   The cart lid will have three large arrows on it helping to guide how to properly place it at the curb.

Using a cart for curbside recycling will help to increase collection efficiency, increase collection capacity, reduce litter, and be safer for our drivers. 

Cart Drop Photo Caption: Cart contractor staff deliver roll carts to Orange County rural residents that requested a cart.


Orange County Exceeds Waste Reduction Goal, reaching 64%, the highest EVER.

ORANGE COUNTY, NC (December 11, 2014)—The State of North Carolina reported the amount of waste landfilled per person that originated in Orange County was measured at 0.49 tons per person in fiscal year 2013-14.

This is a 64% reduction when compared with the base year of 1991-92 tonnage of 1.36 tons per person. For the first time, this exceeds the 61% reduction goal, set in 1997 as part of the state-required Solid Waste Plan. This measurement includes all types of solid waste from all sources within Orange County, regardless of landfill destination.

“When the 61% goal was established, many considered it overly ambitious compared to the state’s 40% statutory goal, plus no other county set a goal higher than that,” said Gayle Wilson, director of Orange County Solid Waste. “The County and its three towns set the goal based on the amount of recyclables contained in the waste stream at that time and also increased the goal further to compensate for prior reductions that had taken place not due to County actions. Over the years the governments have re-affirmed the goal and continued to work on it together.”

Waste reduction rates in neighboring counties include: Alamance = 23%, Chatham = 41%, Durham = 13%, and Wake = 29%. 

“This achievement is a credit to all the residents and businesses of Orange County who recycle so much so diligently and constantly.  For many years, our elected boards have invested in and supported waste reduction and recycling because it’s in line with the values of this County and something the public wants,” said Commissioner Chair Earl McKee. “Our staff and contractors do a great job picking up and processing the thousands of tons of materials set out each year. Each ton we recycle is a ton that is not landfilled and that ton is one we don’t pay to dispose of.”

To view the full report of all NC counties’ current and past waste reduction rates, please visit


Twenty five years of recycling in Orange County

Twenty five years ago this fall Orange County and its municipalities launched curbside recycling in all three towns – Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough.  While there had been a drop-off site program and other publicly funded efforts for more than two years preceding the launch of curbside, 1989 could be said to mark our transition to ‘serious’ recycling joining the ranks of other early adopters of broadly based around the nation.

Thus we use this twenty-fifth anniversary celebration as a time to mark TWENTY-FIVE program accomplishments and benchmarks that we can celebrate as part of our success in reducing waste landfilled and making the transition towards a materials management program instead of just solid waste management. 

1) 1989 Distribution of over 12,000 blue bins to all single family homes throughout Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough to launch the weekly curbside recycling program

2)  1990 First comprehensive waste composition study at the Orange County Landfill conducted to see ‘what’s in our garbage

3)  1992 Pilot rural curbside recycling and downtown Chapel Hill ‘bar glass’ recycling programs began

4)  1993 Creation of County-wide system of staffed Solid Waste Convenience Centers for management of residential waste and recycling, closing 19 unstaffed ‘green box’ sites

5)  1994:  initiation of apartment complex recycling program and beginning of County-wide comprehensive solid waste planning process

6)  1995 Chapel Hill Solid Waste Management Department created to manage recycling program and landfill facilities

7)  1995 Pilot food waste recovery program contracted to two small hog farmers

8)  1996 Unlined landfill closed and modern lined landfill constructed and opened

9)  1996 Ban on landfilling commercial corrugated cardboard enacted in Orange County

10)  1996 Four-county (Chatham, Durham, Orange and Wake) cooperative household hazardous waste program began and Orange County builds permanent hazardous waste drop-off site

11)  1997 Planning process results in County wide adoption of 61% waste reduction goal

12)  1998 Food waste collection expands using large scale composting contractor for collection

13)  2000 Orange County takes over operation of landfill and recycling from Town of Chapel Hill and creates inter-local agreement to manage program

14)  2002 Orange County achieves 45% waste reduction, the first County in North Carolina to surpass State’s goal of 40% waste reduction

15)  2002 Regulated Recyclable Materials Ordinance initiated to require solid waste plan of all new development and banning cardboard, scrap metal and clean wood from disposal

16)  2002 First electronics recycling drop-off events in Orange County

17)  2003 Conversion of Household Hazardous Waste collection from once a month to four days per week operation

18)  2004 Conversion of electronics recycling program to permanent drop-off site, eventually expanding to six locations county-wide

19)  2004 Three R recycling fee initiated to ensure comprehensive, predictable, and  equitable financing of recycling programs

20)  2006 Addition of mixed paper to curbside recycling and apartments, conversion to 2-stream recycling instead of source separated program

21)  2006 Corrugated cardboard banned from residential waste

22)  2012 Conversion to single stream recycling, leads to overall 16% increase in curbside recycling collection

23)  2012 County reaches 59% waste reduction, highest in the State

24)  2013 Orange County MSW Landfill closes, and landfill gas recovery program begins in conjunction with UNC

25)  2014 Conversion of urban curbside recycling to roll carts leads to 29% increase in recycling collection, and planning for (voluntary) conversion of rural program to roll carts begins.

Compost Bins for Sale

Cost: $50 cash or check only

Orange County Solid Waste Administration

1207 Eubanks Rd. Chapel Hill, 27516

Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m.-5:00p.m.

You can make your own rich crumbly compost at home with your yard waste, brown leaves, and kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps. To learn more about the "Earth Machine" outdoor composting unit that we sell, visit


Compost Demonstration Sites

There are two outdoor composting demonstration sites located in Orange County where you can learn more about outdoor composting and observein it "in action":

  • Orange County Solid Waste Management Administrative Office, 1207 Eubanks Rd. Chapel Hill.
  • Chapel Hill Community Center Learning Garden (behind the rose garden) on S. Estes Drive.

Orange County Solid Waste provides composting education classes using these sites at least four times per year, twice in the spring and fall, but they are for public educational use as well. OCSWM can provide outdoor composting instruction at these locations, or help set up and teach outdoor composting to function for interested organizations, schools or businesses. These classes are free to the Orange County public, comtact if you are interested.  

Orange County Solid Waste delivered recycling carts to Town residents in June, 2014

Orange County is pleased to announce that residents of Carrboro, Chapel Hill (including the portion of the Town of Chapel HIll that falls within Durham County) and Hillsborough with curbside recycling receivednew blue 95 gallon wheeled carts to replace their old square 18-gallon bins that have been the Towns’ recycling receptacle for decades!  Residents should now be using their blue carts on their regularly scheduled recycling day. Curbside recycling in the towns will remain a weekly service.

Postcards with cart use information and recycling details were mailed to each address receiving a new cart.  Find the postcard online here, or if yoiu prefer we can mail you one to keep for reference. The carts are equipped with an RFID tag (or “radio-frequency identification”) that will tie the cart to each address and will help measure participation rates. 

Only recycling placed in the new blue carts will be collected, and the old square bins should be retired.  Please place carts at the curb, parrallel with the strewe, and with the lid opening facing the street, by 7:00 a.m. on their collection day. The cart should be clear of any obstructions, and two to three feet distant from any other object such as mailboxes, trees, vehicles, or other carts.  This is so the truck’s mechanical collection arms can have space to lift and tip the carts with ease. 

Only materials placed loosely inside the recycling cart, with the cart lid closed, will get emptied into the recycling truck—items left on the ground, in plastic bags, or another containers, or that get stuck inside the cart will not be recycled.  Carts should be rolled back to the house after collection in accordance with Town ordinances.

More questions?  Check out the FAQ Cart document!


The Orange County Landfill closed on June 30, 2013. Other services will remain active.

As of June 30, the County Municipal Solid Waste Landfill will close.  This facility will no longer accept household waste or any other putrescible (wet, due to potential food content) garbage from any individual or business.   Household and business waste must be taken to a permitted transfer station or landfill that can accept those materials. Tipping fees and recycling/preparation policies may vary by facility.

The following properly separated materials will also continue to be accepted at the Orange County Solid Waste Management Facility on Eubanks Road:  

  • Yard waste
  • Tires
  • Scrap metal
  • Clean (unpainted, untreated) wood waste
  • Large appliances
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Oyster shells
  • Electronics (up to ten units per trip)
  • Mattresses and box springs (no other upholstered furniture) 
  • Hazardous waste collection facility (220 pounds/month limit for businesses)

The Construction and Demolition Waste (C&D) Landfill will continue to accept waste from construction, remodeling and demolition projects subject to the County disposal bans on corrugated cardboard, scrap metal and clean wood waste. Those materials must be separated to be accepted.

Mulch and compost sales will also remain active.

Residential services for garbage and recycling collection will continue uninterrupted at all five of Solid Waste Convenience Centers located throughout Orange County.  No commercial or other non-residential use is permitted at these locations.


Student Move-out Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Resources!

The end of April marks the end of the collegiate Spring semester.  It’s time for the population in Chapel Hill to drop and for the number of available parking spots to rise.  It is also time for a huge slug of move-out goodies to hit the landfill.  Do your part to make move out less waste-full. Use the following guidelines to reduce waste, support local charities, and recycle as much as possible!

If you are interested in an end-of-year-move-out collection point at your apartment complex for clean, dry clothing, canned foods and usable household goods, contact our office and we will work with you to set up such a site and help provide publicity to your residents as they prepare to move out. Our office would provide a set of labeled, clean roll carts during the month of May. Your obligation would be to publicize the program, locate carts in a secure, dry area that is easily accessible for residents. Periodic policing will help ensure that the contents are usable and sanitary. Let us know if you would like a set of roll carts for clothing, canned goods and small household items.

Reusable furniture and other household items in good condition can be offered for reuse at “Salvage Sheds” located at Solid Waste Convenience Centers except for BVradshaw Quarry Rd.  Used mattresses can NOT be left at Solid Waste Convenience Centers

Solid Waste Convenience Centers have recycling collection for bottles, cans, jars, mixed paper, newspaper, magazines, non-bottle plastics such as yogurt tubs and stadium cupsand corrugated cardboard. Recycle all batteries, motor oil, antifreeze, televisions, computers, cell phones and other electronic devices there too! 

Electronics can also be recycled at the Orange County Landfill on Eubanks Rd. in Chapel Hill. Hours there are Monday – Friday 7am to 4pm and Saturday 7:30am to noon.

Clothing and household items in good condition can be donated to local charities and pick-up can be arranged for large loads.

  • PTA Thrift Shop Village Plaza, S. Elliott Rd, Chapel Hill (919) 942-6101
  • Club Nova Thrift Shop, 103-C West Main Street, Carrboro (919) 967-6985. 

Furniture and appliances in good condition can be picked up by the Habitat for Humanity Hand-Me-Up store. Appliances must work and be less than 10 years old.  Call (919) 403-8668 to schedule a collection if you can’t drop your items off at 5501 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, Durham, NC 27707

Donate unopened cans and boxes of non-perishable food items and unused personal care items to the Inter-Faith Council Food Pantry at 110 West Main Street in Carrboro, between 9-5 weekdays. If you need to make special arrangements for weekend drop-off, call them at 929-6380 ext. * 16.  Unserved perishable food can be brought directly to the Community House Facility at 100 W. Rosemary St.                                                     

Styrofoam packing peanuts and bubble wrap should be brought to local packaging companies like “Pack It Ship It” at MidTown Market on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, or UPS packaging stores throughout the County.  Packing materials should not be left at the recycling dropoff sites.

Metal cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles and jars and all clean, dry paper including, newspapers, phonebooks, envelopes, junk mail, class notes, can be recycled at all five of the 24-hour recycling drop-off sites

  • Cedar Falls Park: Weaver Dairy Road
  • University Mall: Mall parking lot behind the gas station on Estes Drive
  • Carrboro Plaza: Behind ABC Store in southeast corner of the Plaza
  • Meadowmont: Behind Harris Teeter (this is the least used site)
  • Hampton Pointe Shopping Plaza: Hwy 86 in Hillsborough behind Home Depot

If the site is full, please take the recyclables to another site (usually Meadowmont site or Hampton Pointe site at Home Depot in Hillsborough are underutilized).  Never ever leave plastic bags at a drop-off site. Take clean, dry empty plastic or paper bags to grocery stores to be recycled.

Hazardous Waste such as “CFL’s” (compact fluorescent lights), paint, hair spray, bug spray, drain cleaner and any flammable, toxic or corrosive liquids should be taken to the Hazardous Household Waste (HHW) Collection at the Orange County Landfill on Eubanks Road. HHW is open Monday through Friday 10am to 6pm and Saturday 7:30 am to noon.

Please contact our office if you have any move-out questions!

(919) 968-2788

Special Event Planning for Waste Reduction

“Special event” season is here and many planners want to do right by their event goers, and the environment.  The Orange County Landfill closed on June 30, 2013, and our garbage is now traveling over 100 miles to be landfilled. It is simply a priority among many of our residents, staff, and government officials to reduce as much waste as possible!

The marketplace has recognized the trend so store shelves are full of products that claim to be “green” -- but sometimes the labeling is misleading, and if the event doesn’t go the full distance with recycling AND composting collection respectively, “green” purchasing is not going to make a bit of difference.  Here are some myth busters and basic guidelines to help out.

Buying products labeled “compostable” does not make you green.  If you buy “compostables” make sure they are labeled “certified compostable” and will be sent to a commercial composting facility.  Corn-based #7 PLA cups usually have a green band around them and claim to be compostable.  They are… but only in a commercial composting facility, not in your backyard bin, and certainly not in the landfill.  They cannot be recycled either! Unless they are actively separated from the rest of the trash and brought to a collection point for a commercial composter (with permission or by contract), they will go into the landfill.  There they break down slowly and produce methane. If compostable serving ware is just going to be landfilled it’s no better for the environment and more costly for consumers than serving with petroleum-based plastics.   

“Biodegradable” and “compostable” and “recyclable” do not mean the same thing. Two groups of materials have been developed in terms of degradable plastics. The first group includes plant based resins like #7PLA in corn based cups discussed above. The second includes petroleum-based conventional plastics that have chemicals added (known as oxo-degradables) which, when exposed to heat and oxygen, break apart the carbon bonds resulting in micro-fragments of plastic and metals. The fragments will remain in the environment but will not be seen as a visual contaminant.   

There are serious concerns amongst plastics, composting and waste management experts that these products do not meet their environmental claims. European Bioplastics considers terms such as “biodegradable” and “oxo-biodegradable” without reference to existing standards as misleading, and as such not reproducible and verifiable. Testing by the Association of Post-Consumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) shows that these plastics are NOT RECYCLABLE.  APR states “they [oxo plastics] are a contaminant in the recycling stream. Claims of recyclability are unfounded, untested, and possibly misleading as outlined in the Federal Trade Commission’sGreen Guide.”  The principal concern is that a recycled resin containing degradable additives renders any product made with those resins unsellable because the product has reduced quality and shortened service life.  

With all the plastics recycling in North Carolina, this is a big concern for businesses here. The NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources has just released the report: “Study on the Effects of Degradable Plastic on Recycled Feedstocks” which can be found at: Pursuant to that, a new bill is being prepared to go the legislature this session to require OXO plastics to be labeled as not recyclable and any plastic labeled as degradable or compostable to comply with American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard D6400-04, "Standard Specification for Compostable Plastics."

What is an organizer to do? Know your waste stream! Identify what is going to be served and therefore what will be thrown out at your event.  Replace disposables with durables or recyclables wherever possible.  Many local caterers are becoming accustomed to this request. If you have recyclables, make sure you have containers for collection, and a system for proper recycling after the event. For example, instead of fountain drinks and plastic cups, serve beverages in bottles and cans and have recycling containers next to every trash can.  At the end of the event bring them to one of Orange County’s 24 hour recycling drop-off sites.  Serving hotdogs?  Good choice—finger food requires no plates or utensils, but the buns are going to come in recyclable plastic bags.  Stuff empty bun bags into another plastic bag, and recycle at a participating grocery store.  Serve condiments in bulk containers rather than disposable packets.  Want to go the distance and have compost collection?  Purchase appropriately and ensure that the compost collection containers are watched so that absolutely no plastic or metal goes in! 

Orange County Solid Waste Management can help.  We loan recycling containers for special events and consult with planners to reduce the waste stream, identifying systems for diverting waste through reduction, recycling or composting.  Larger public events in Orange County have worked with the Solid Waste Department to reduce their waste as much as 95%!  Each has their own method - Hillsborough Hogg Day works closely with food vendors to make sure they serve only on compostable ware.  Organizers of Farm-to-Fork and Terra Vita provide compostables directly to the vendors, but also reduce waste by providing each event goer with only one utensil (it’s not “Farm to Forks!” the organizer will explain).  All three of these events rely on Solid Waste staff and trash-savvy volunteers at sorting stations to keep it all separated and moving smoothly. 

CLICK HERE for the Guide to Using Durable, Disposable or Compostable Serving Ware for Special Events

Single Stream Recycling effective in Orange County as of July 1, 2012

Residents and businesses in Orange County will no longer have to divide their recycling into two separate containers-- all paper, magazines, newspaper, phonebooks, cartons and junk mail can be commingled with plastic bottles and jugs, metal cans, aluminum trays and foil, glass bottles and jars at the curb, in carts, and at drop-off sites.

This system of recycling, commonly referred to as “Single Stream”, will make recycling easier and more convenient for residents and businesses, while also saving trips and reducing lifting strain for recycling collection staff.   Recycling trucks won’t fill as fast because everything goes into one compartment, thus reducing transportation costs.  The technical sorting capability at recycling processing facilities (known as Material Recovery Facilities or MRFs) has improved greatly using a combination of automated equipment and manual labor, so a wide range of commingled materials can be efficiently separated and processed to achieve high-value marketable commodities. 

Curbside residents can still recycle corrugated cardboard at the curb.  The same rules apply as in two-stream -- empty and flattened boxes that are 3’x3’ or less, and 10 pieces or less, unless you can fit them all in your bin.

Businesses, apartment dwellers, and other multifamily site residents with recycling collected in blue County-owned carts still need to recycle their cardboard separately either in a designated dumpster or at a recycling drop-off location. 

Orange County Solid Waste has made a significant investment to publicize this exciting new change.   Hopefully residents and businesses received the latest issue of "Waste Matters", our 4-page newsletter that was mailed at the end of May of this year.  Informational recycling decals were replaced at all apartment complex and commercial cart sites. Anyone with questions, comments or concerns or who would like copies of any of these new outreach documents is encouraged to contact the Solid Waste Management Administrative office at (919) 968-2788 or e-mail

County Removed Plastics Recycling Dumpsters from Recycling Drop Off Sites, now only availble at Solid Wasdte Convenience Centers.

Due to excessive contamination levels, sometimes exceeding fifty percent, Orange County Solid Waste Management will permanently remove the large purple roll-off dumpsters for recycling rigid plastics from four unstaffed recycling sites on November 1.  Banners have been placed at each site stating that the rigid plastic containers will be removed.  All other recycling collection containers will remain at the unstaffed sites.

purple rolloff removed

The purple dumpsters for recycling resin types #2, #4 and #5 cups, tubs, buckets, pipe, lawn furniture and other non-bottle plastics will remain at the five staffed convenience center sites along with all other current recycling and trash services.

Orange County has been collecting the non-bottle rigid plastics for recycling from both staffed convenience center sites and unstaffed recycling sites since February 2010 and averages about 13 tons per month incoming material, of which about nine tons of which are suitable for sale. This is the highest rate of contamination from any public recycling program. The contaminants must be manually sorted by County staff and landfilled before the good material can be sent to market.  

Only about 10% of the material in purple dumpsters from staffed sites is contaminants. The majority of contaminants come from the four unstaffed sites at Carrboro Plaza, Cedar Falls Park, Meadowmont and University Mall.  The dumpster at the Hampton Pointe recycling site behind Home Depot in Hillsborough was removed a year ago for excessive contamination, but contamination at the other four sites did not improve even with extensive public education.

Since the County established this program ongoing efforts have been made to educate the public about the proper materials including placement of high quality signage, extensive paid advertising, articles in local papers, shows on local radio and two major efforts staffing the usually unstaffed drop-off sites with temporary personnel to educate site users.  

Rigid plastics #2 (HDPE), #4 (LDPE) and #5 (PP) for which there is a reliable, regional market that Orange County sells to include items such as five gallon buckets, kitty litter buckets,  plastic storage totes, plastic lawn furniture, black pipe, and kiddie pools. These items are not recycled when put in curbside recycling bins with cans and bottles, only when kept separate and brought to the staffed Solid Waste Convenience Centers.  See the County web page for a full list of acceptable plastics in the purple bins: to request a pictorial brochure.


North Carolina Electronics Ban in effect July 1, 2011; Electronics recycling details for Orange County.

Computer equipment and televisions will be banned from disposal in North Carolina landfills as of July 1, 2011, as required by NC Session Law 2010-67 passed last year by the General Assembly. As of July 1, televisions, computers and computer equipment such as laptops, desktops, monitors, printers, scanners, and peripherals such as mice and keyboards cannot go in the trash or be disposed in any NC landfill.

Orange County residents can recycle their electronics at all 5 of the Solid Waste Convenience Centers located throughout the county, during hours of operation.  Visit for details.

Orange County residents, businesses, and other non-residential entities can recycle their electronics at the Orange County Landfill, 1514 Eubanks Rd. in Chapel Hill, Monday- Friday from 7:30a.m.-4:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 12 noon.  Please call ahead to make an appointment for large loads so we can process those right away.

Collected electronic items include any audio or visual data carrying devices such as computers, monitors, mice, keyboards, televisions, IPods, scanners, printers, speakers, cables, copiers, cell phones, telephones, stereos,  fax machines, CD and DVD players, cassette players, VCRs and electronic media such as CD’s, DVD’s and their cases (no electronic tape such as cassette or VCR tape please). Look for the black trailers labeled “Electronic Recycling”.

Orange County has been providing residents with electronics recycling since 2002.  Orange County will recycle close to 1,000,000 pounds of electronics this fiscal year.  That is approximately 11 tons per week, or 8 pounds per person, per year.  Orange County contracts with a North Carolina based electronics recycling firm called Synergy Recycling, LLC Synergy is certified with numerous environmental and employee health and safety standards, and their downstream markets are also certified to be environmentally sound and non-polluting.

Other components of the law are designed to create statewide recycling opportunities for discarded electronics and to place significant responsibilities on electronics manufacturers to help fund and create those opportunities.  All computer manufacturers are required to offer at least a free mail-back program for their own equipment, and some will offer additional kinds of recycling options. A number of retailers also offer recycling of electronics, as do some nonprofit and charitable agencies. A comprehensive list of recycling options for residents and businesses in the state of North Carolina can be found at: