Cary residents don’t want to pay more to recycle more

aspecht@newsobserver.comApril 9, 2014 

Peter Bond III, a town of Cary worker, collects a recycling bin from a neighborhood near downtown in December.

THE CARY NEWS FILE PHOTO

  • What can be recycled in Cary?

    Cary accepts newspaper, printer paper, telephone books, magazines, junk mail, glass bottles, plastic bottles, cans, foil, metal pots, cartons, paper towel rolls and flattened corrugated cardboard but no pizza boxes.

    Starting April 22, the Cary Recycles program will begin accepting laundry baskets, lawn furniture, five-gallon buckets, storage containers, 18-gallon recycling bins, garbage cans and soda crates.

    Items that don’t fit in recycling carts can be dropped off at the Citizen's Convenience Center, 313 N. Dixon Ave. Residents can also call 919-469-4090 to schedule a free pickup.

— Most Cary residents want to recycle more, but they aren’t willing to pay more to expand services, according to a recently released town survey.

Only 20 percent of the 405 residents polled said they support higher recycling fees, while 58 percent said they were against them.

Supporters included Cary’s wealthier, more-educated residents, while opponents included mostly younger residents and those who make less than $45,000 a year.

The town’s diversion rate, which measures how much recycled material is diverted from the landfill, is higher than Raleigh, Durham and Greensboro but has stagnated since 2010.

Town Council members want to encourage residents to recycle more and throw away less trash, but they said last fall they want to gauge support for expanded services before taking action.

The council directed Virginia-based BKL Research to include specific questions about recycling in Cary’s biennial survey, which asks residents about town services.

Cary paid $34,600 for the survey, which will be taken into consideration as town leaders plan next year’s budget.

About 75 percent of survey-takers were white, 50 percent were between the ages of 36 and 55, and 45 percent earn more than $100,000 a year.

Town leaders have said the survey will not be their lone source for considering changes to Cary’s recycling program.

“The main issue is extending the life of our landfill,” Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said.

But the results offer a glimpse into the minds of residents.

Most said they would recycle more if Cary increased recycling pickup, provided larger bins or if they knew more about which materials are recyclable.

Residents can swap their 65-gallon recycling cart for a 95-gallon cart for free by calling Cary’s Public Works Department at 919-469-4090.

They can also pay an extra $1 a month for an additional cart.

A list of recyclable materials can be found on the “Curbside Recycling” page of Cary’s website.

Sweeping town-led efforts to improve the diversion rate would be costly.

Increasing recycling pickup would cost Cary a one-time fee of $2 million and an extra $595,000 a year – a 39 percent increase over the $1.5 million Cary is spending on recycling services this year.

That equals an extra $1.56 a month per customer, or an extra $18.72 per year.

Replacing all of the 65-gallon carts with 95-gallon carts would cost the town a one-time fee of $1.7 million, while a campaign to increase recycling education would cost $31,000.

Survey results showed that senior citizens, new residents, and residents between the ages of 18 and 25 were among those most confused about which items can be recycled.

Some survey-takers also suggested Cary offer incentives to recycle to boost participation.

It was the most popular suggestion among blacks, Hispanics, young residents and those who earn less than $45,000 a year.

Other town ratings

Elsewhere in the survey, residents indicated they think highly of Cary – but not as highly as they did in 2012, when the town received its highest marks ever.

For instance, 94 percent of people said they feel safe in Cary. But residents gave Cary’s public places the lowest safety score in the history of the survey.

The police department received good scores, too, but was downgraded from “A-” to “B+” in several categories, including response time, competence and fairness.

Black residents gave police a “C” in each of those categories.

Streets received the same “C” grade as in 2012, but residents have new road worries. Maynard Road again was the top concern, but Cary Parkway and High House Road replaced Kildaire Farm Road and Walnut Street in the top-three most-mentioned roads.

New development, roads and schools remained the most important issues for Cary residents. But downtown revitalization eclipsed safety as the fourth-biggest concern.

Blacks, young residents, new residents, seniors and residents with advanced degrees were most satisfied with downtown revitalization efforts.

Residents ages 56 to 65, those who earn between $100,000 and $150,00 a year and those who live south of U.S. 1 were among the least satisfied.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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