The question of what to do with New Hanover County’s solid waste is still open. After hearing long-awaited presentations Monday from two private companies vying to haul local waste to neighboring counties, the commissioners were left dissatisfied with projected costs. While the outside companies have been invited to justify their numbers during next month’s commission board meeting, the county could simply continue to handle waste management operations on its own. And, its environmental management department is busy brewing plans to help divert waste from the county landfill, thus preserving precious air space.
If a private bidder wins waste management operations, New Hanover County’s environmental management department will have a lot of knowledge—and potentially, employees—to transfer. They include a year-old household hazardous waste facility, curbside recycling initiatives and a newly implemented asphalt shingle and carpet recycling operation. And Joe Suleyman, director of the county’s department of environmental management, says the market is seeing an explosion of companies vying to purchase and repurpose additional waste materials.
"More and more people are looking at solid waste not as a liability—something that has to be buried and cared for decades--but they’re starting to look at it as a potential revenue stream. Really if you look at the solid waste stream as a whole, about seventy percent of it has alternative uses as a commodity, once it’s been processed and put back into the system."
For instance, Suleyman says forty percent of the county’s waste stream is food waste—which more and more companies are converting into compost and renewable fuels. He says the same goes for paper and plastic waste, both of which are being increasingly converted back into consumer products.