A tale of two programs

Downtown Asheville’s Fine Arts Theater is proud of its recycling policy, says Manager Neal Reed — and rightly so.

“The Fine Arts has had a strong recycling policy from the beginning,” notes Reed, who’s managed the 5-year-old theater for a little more than a year. “We recycle everything, from cardboard to glass (we sell beer, soft drinks and wine in bottles) to plastic to paper — newspapers, fliers, any paper that we generate. We try not to throw anything away, except for customer waste and the unavoidables.”

Setting up a recycling program is not so difficult, says Reed — it’s mainly a matter of setting aside the space and providing separate containers for different recyclables. “It really doesn’t take any special resources other than the ability to drive it to a recycling facility,” he says. A business recycling program does require certain commitments, however. “Since the city doesn’t provide a centralized service, recyclables must be separated and driven to various facilities around town: We take our bottles and containers to the Brevard Road substation; we take paper to Asheville Waste Paper down on River Road, and so on.”

Of course, the number of trips to recycling facilities depends on the amount of material collected. “We take cardboard every two to three weeks, and everything else about every two weeks,” he explains.

For Reed, recycling is really a matter of conscience. “It’s just the idea of making a commitment to do something positive to protect our resources,” he avows. “It’s everybody’s responsibility to recycle — and, as a business, we generate a larger portion of waste than the average homeowner, so it’s especially important for us.”

Reed also names one simple way to encourage businesses to recycle: customer demand. “I think many restaurants and businesses often go with customer demands for everything. If customers, for example, like creamier sauces or whatever, then restaurants try to oblige those customers. … I think if customers were to say, ‘We want businesses that we patronize to recycle,’ that would give the businesses way more incentive to do it.

“The key is to support businesses that do recycle and to make that clear; then, the businesses will have little choice but to respond.”

Good advice.

Fletcher axes curbside recycling

by Lisa Watters

As of July 1, Fletcher residents will no longer enjoy the convenience of curbside recycling. It’s one of the many services and employee benefits the town has been forced to cut to compensate for the loss of revenues withheld by North Carolina to help address a state budget shortfall. As a result, the town is facing its own $411,850 deficit this fiscal year and could stand to lose a projected $488,000 next year.

Cutting the recycling program wasn’t an easy decision, Town Manager Craig Honeycutt explains, “but we don’t have a lot of choices as far as cutting big-ticket items. … We’ve cut everything — from staff positions that have been frozen to recycling to benefits for employees.”

Other items falling victim to the austerity program include raises for employee longevity, contributions to employee retirement plans, and employee dental coverage. Fletcher has also cut capital expenses and will extend the current hiring freeze, leaving 2-1/2 vacant positions unfilled.

After factoring in the additional landfill tipping fees, cutting the recycling program “should save approximately $36,000 to $38,000,” says Honeycutt.

“Even with all the cuts we’re making, we’re projecting that [property] taxes still will have to go up 2-1/2 cents for the town and a half-cent for Fletcher Fire and Rescue, for a total of 3 cents,” he notes.

Since the town was incorporated in 1989, Fletcher has always provided some kind of recycling program, says Honeycutt; the current “blue bag” program, with curbside pickup every other week, has been in place for nearly six years. During fiscal year 2000-01, 144 tons of recyclables were picked up and an estimated 20 percent of the town’s 1,700 residents participated in the program, according to Fletcher’s annual report to the state.

The program’s future depends on what happens with the state reimbursements, says Honeycutt. “If we do get some of that revenue back in, once we look at replenishing our reserve-fund balance … we would be looking at putting back recycling as quickly as we could.”

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 10, after which the final decisions will be made. But barring a miracle, Fletcher residents who wish to continue recycling after July 1 will have to haul their recyclables to the Henderson County landfill on Stoney Mountain Road.

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