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A MRF in the future

The following blog is provided from “Shorelines,” an internal communication channel for New Hanover County employees. The county manager posted this blog following the Board of Commissioners’ meeting Monday, and it has been edited to reflect action by the Wilmington City Council.

A MRF, not a Smurf from the 1980s popular cartoon, may well be in the future for New Hanover County residents.

So what’s a MRF (pronounced murf) anyway, and why should county residents be tuned in?

A MRF, technically known as a materials recovery facility, is a recycling operation that processes items like cardboard, paper, plastic bottles, glass, etc. These are things that we usually recycle by placing them in a recycling container for curb-side pick up or drop off at a county recycling station throughout the unincorporated county. Right now most of the recyclables collected locally are shipped off to Jacksonville or Raleigh — more expensive and more [negatively] impactful to the environment.

If a local MRF happens it is a guarantee that material you recycle can be done at a more cost effective rate by private haulers, the city, and the county. What does more cost effectiveness mean to you and me? A lower overall personal cost of disposal. We save money, which means we should be positioned to pass along fewer costs in the business of recycling.

How do we get to a functioning MRF locally? The first step happened Monday when the county commissioners approved an Interlocal Agreement (ILA) between the county and the city calling for development of a third-party operated MRF at the county’s former Waste-to-Energy (WASTEC) facility. It’s now up to the city through its commitment to the ILA (the city council approved the ILA Tuesday, April 21). The ILA commits the city to disposing of its curbside recyclables at the county-hosted, but third party-operated MRF. The ILA establishes a relationship between the county and the city for 8 years, effectively beginning at the start of the next fiscal year – July 1, 2015.

The second step is the county securing an operating agreement with Sonoco, a private recycling company, that establishes a MRF that can accept at least the city and the county’s share of recyclables. This is up to the negotiating influence of the county to get the best deal for all concerned. The long term agreement between the county and Sonoco will allow for expansion of the MRF and the potential of importing recyclables from the region. The more tons overall will mean a lower cost for New Hanover County residents – it doesn’t matter if you live in the city, a beach town, or the unincorporated county. Long term savings should be everyone’s future.

It may not be obvious right away, but development of a MRF locally should increase the overall rate of recycling participation throughout the county, which in turn leads to a more sustainable practice of solid waste management.

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