The Green Scene

The ABC’s of recycling

Kimberly Raphael, financial manager at Curbside Management, often spends her afternoons educating schoolchildren on the surprising fates of recycled waste processed at the materials recovery facility. Number-one plastic? Crunched down into miniscule flakes, which are sent on to Alabama to be processed into thread-like fibers used for making carpet. Number-two plastic? Processed, shipped and ultimately reincarnated as “dimensional lumber,” a sturdy, pest-resistant material used for playground equipment.

Each month, Curbside Management collects, sorts and processes 700 tons of recyclable plastic, aluminum and glass, according Raphael. That number may grow thanks to new legislation passed by the N.C. General Assembly, which requires certain Alcoholic Beverage Control permit holders to recycle empty glass beverage containers beginning Jan. 1, 2008. Currently, Curbside hauls away discarded glass bottles from just 30 bars and restaurants; once the new rule takes effect, some 500 ABC permit holders in Buncombe and surrounding counties will be legally required to find ways of keeping their empties out of the landfill.

For those who will be directly affected by the new rule — many of whom run small, independently owned bars and restaurants — the requirement raises a new set of financial and logistical concerns, from covering the cost of bins and weekly pick-up to creating enough storage space for recyclables. To address those concerns, Land-of-Sky Regional Council has stepped in to devise a program to help local bars and restaurants make a smooth transition to recycling.

The Land-of-Sky initiative, funded by a grant from the state DENR Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, got started with two focus-group sessions held Sept. 21 to identify what it is that prevents businesses from implementing recycling programs. “Cost,” was the number-one response, as Asheville area businesses must pay extra to have their recyclables hauled away. Lu Young, co-owner of the Westville Pub, noted that when her business had first looked into recycling programs, they found them to be “prohibitively expensive,” but got around it by loading bulging bags of recyclables into an old pick-up twice a week and transporting them to a recycling facility on their own accord.

“We all understand that designing a new way of handling waste … can be complicated at first,” says Holly Bullman, Brownfields and Waste Reduction Specialist at Land-of-Sky, who is spearheading the program. “So we convened focus-group meetings to discuss firsthand with the permit holders what kind of challenges they anticipate facing. The benefits we’re offering to the ABC permit holders are technical assistance — like help with program logistics, solving space challenges, budget consultation and how to make the program economically viable — [plus] public name recognition and just a forum to discuss the challenges and help folks work around them.”

For more information, contact Holly Bullman at 251-6622.

Healthy-built habitats

Ever wonder what it’s like to inhabit a “green” dwelling? You’d bounce along on bamboo flooring, shower in luxurious solar-heated water, and deeply inhale pure, toxin-free air. Sometimes, you’d just gaze out your low-e passive-solar windows as the wind turbine out front churns away like a giant pinwheel, daydreaming about that incredible shrinking utility bill.

The WNC Green Building Council’s 2006 Green Homes Tour offers a chance to live vicariously through people who do own green homes, plus scope out four properties on the eco-realtor market. On Saturday, Oct. 7, 15 homeowners in various parts of Western North Carolina will open the doors of their energy-efficient, low-impact abodes to those itching to know more about eco-building. Tour participants must register either at EarthFare in the Westgate Shopping Center, or at the Black Mountain Natural Food Store from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and pay a fee of $5 per person or $10 per car. Tour-goers are encouraged to come equipped with a map of Buncombe County, and will receive a brochure with directions to each property on the self-guided tour.

“It’s been amazing,” Maggie Leslie of the WNCGBC says of watching green building flourish in the area. “Three years ago, we were having to scrounge to find houses for this tour. This year, we almost had to turn people away.”

For more information, contact Maggie Leslie at 254-1995 or maggie@wncgbc.org.

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