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Last Wednesday I traveled to Asheville and the nearby county of Henderson to visit with a company called White Labs, a plastics recycler named Bromley Plastics, and the Henderson County Convenience Center. White Labs is a yeast fermenter who supplies many of the local breweries in downtown Asheville. We visited there first. The company is looking for a plastics recycler who will take the plastic scraps left over from the yeast fermentation process. It is fairly clean plastic material, which is important. The problem is that the company does not have anywhere to store the material to deliver it to a recycler in a great enough quantity to make it desirable. This is the give and take between businesses who are trying to be environmentally friendly and reduce waste and the feasibility of recyclers to be able to manage their material without delaying production and operating more machines.

We ate lunch in downtown Asheville (shout out to Early Girl Eatery) which was a great treat! Being in the mountains made the trip even better.

After lunch we visited with Bromley Plastics. The company takes mostly industrial plastic waste and shreds it, in turn selling it to various companies to be made into a new product. The most interesting example was a part for a washing machine which was composed of 50 percent of Bromley’s recycled plastic material. There was a tough little dog in the office to greet us and to tell us goodbye and a gopher waiting on the railroad tracks outside of the building.

Our last stop was the Henderson County convenience center. I’d never been to a convenience center before and the variety of options for recycling was surprising. There was even a place to recycle mercury (wherever you were getting that from). Options were available for recycling TV’s, computers, printers, and white goods as well as your standard recycling. Counties operate convenience centers so that individuals who live in unincorporated areas can come and recycle and throw away their trash. The County talked to us about some of the issues they were having concerning agreements with recycling providers and we helped formulate solutions. The property is located on a closed landfill site and has great views of the mountain ridge from the top.

The picture on the right is taken from the one of the hills where the closed landfill is grassed over. You can see the convenience center on the concrete platform with different collection containers lined up. The mountain ridge is behind it.

After our tour of the property we sat in a  a county building on the property that is now office space. It once was a tuberculosis ward and then an orphanage apparently. One of our hosts told us that he hears strange noises in the building all the time- doors slamming, footsteps when no one is there, banging on the walls, scratching sounds. He’s convinced the place is haunted. It was built around the time of the Great Depression and has a graveyard right beside it. Spooky!! I want to go back and see for myself. On our way out of the convenience center we spotted a flock of turkeys showing off. A very interesting day.

Convenience centers are related to the main project I’m working on which is gathering information on unincorporated households in counties. While most counties maintain a convenience center or multiple convenience centers there are often options available for county residents to access curbside pick up of trash or recycling or both. These services can be provided through a franchise, a licensing system, a contract, or an open system typically. I talked about the difference between these in my last post if you need a refresher. We are attempting to build a list of private solid waste haulers in each county and what kind of system they operate under. The ultimate goal is to be able to help counties incorporate curbside recycling into their collection and to help consumers know the options available to them for curbside solid waste collection. There are rarely maintained lists of haulers readily available to someone looking for the service and we are trying to build that database. Additionally, we are attempting to find out how many unincorporated households are served by each private hauler and how many are currently participating in recycling.

Update: the budget is looking better *knock on wood*, so hopefully we are here to stay! The House doesn’t cut us even though the Senate does. Hopefully in negotiations it goes well.

Thanks for reading as always!

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