UPDATED: County explains decision to end curbside recycling pick-up in Corolla this April

Bay Disposal has been offering curbside pick-ups where towns and counties do not offer it. [photo courtesy Town of Manteo]

Corolla will become the latest Outer Banks community to lose curbside pick-up of recyclables. Since making the announcement Tuesday, county officials have released a more detail explanation of their reasons why.

Curbside service on the Currituck Outer Banks will end on April 4 and a recycling bin will be made available behind the Pine Island Fire Station.

Several towns in Dare County have made a similar move over the past year, due to increased costs and the drastic reduction in purchasing of the materials domestically and overseas.

Materials from Nags head and other towns were also being transported to a waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth because the hauler had been unable to find a purchaser for the material. The waste is used to generate electricity, while steam from the facility helps meet the needs of the nearby U.S. Navy shipyard.

In a press release issued Wednesday, Currituck County explained what was behind the decision:

Currituck County did not make this decision quickly nor without citizen input. This process was driven by several factors. 

The market for recycled goods has diminished greatly due to China’s decision to stop purchasing most recycled goods from the United States. Without China’s participation, the American market for recycled goods is a fraction of its former size.

In addition, many of Currituck’s recycling loads were being turned away by purchasers due to the presence of non-recyclable materials. 
For example, a single pizza box included in a container of recycled goods causes the rejection of the entire container due to “contamination” by non-recyclable matter. These rejections increased with great frequency during the summer vacation season.

Each time a load of recycling material was denied, Currituck incurred additional costs for disposal. It also prevented the county from being a good steward of the environment.

The new self-service containers will help ensure that more loads of recycling materials from Currituck County are accepted, as citizens can readily separate the recycled materials and help prevent contamination from occurring.

Facing increasing costs for solid waste disposal, county officials looked for solutions to avoid raising fees for taxpayers. 
Maintaining the current recycling program would require increasing solid waste fees by approximately $39 per year for each home in Corolla. The Board of Commissioners did not want to pass this added expense to citizens.

The process to make this decision began in 2019, with the expectation that it would go into effect in 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic derailed these plans, and the collection service was not altered at that time. Currituck County staff and officials met with citizens in Corolla to discuss the situation. From those conversations, it was agreed that self-service containers would be sufficient.

Citizens also expressed a desire for more curbside trash bins. Under an agreement with Bay Disposal, the recycling bins will be converted to use for regular household trash after April 4.

Currituck County is not unique in taking this approach. Other coastal communities have eliminated curbside recycling service for the same reasons as Currituck County. This will be an adjustment for citizens in Corolla, but the county’s recycling program will be more effective, and Currituck will save taxpayer dollars.

Bay Disposal is offering to begin recycling collection for individual subscribers in Corolla. A minimum of 250 properties will need to subscribe for the service to be offered.

Contact Currituck Public Works at 252-232-2504 if you would like to participate.

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Sam Walker is news director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach him at [email protected]