Nags Head to take stock after first summer season of recycling

By on November 29, 2016

Bins on the beach road in August. (Michael Beswick)

Now that Nags Head’s new trash and curbside recycling program has gone through its first summer, a town committee will be looking to iron out a few wrinkles in the schedule and service.

The town is seeking members to represent a cross-cut of the community: property managers, business owners and residents of year-round neighborhoods.

For a while after the combined program began on Feb. 2, some of the town-provided recycling containers could still be seen filled with regular garbage. Or folks were putting the wrong cart out on the wrong day. Sometimes, filled carts, left out for days at a time, tipped over and spilled their contents.

But eventually, residents adjusted to keeping only trash in the green container, and only recycling in the blue. They started memorizing the new schedule, which is adjusted by season and areas of town.

“We’re obviously couching it as being a good start to this program,” said Nags Head Deputy Town Manager Andy Garman. “We feel like the program has made an improvement in the numbers.”

The stickler has been finding the right schedule for the weekly rental properties. In the summer, trash and recycling containers on the beachfront had been picked up on Tuesdays and Saturdays. But with the changeover in weekly rentals typically on Saturdays, sometimes the timing was off.

“If they’re not rolling them out on the night before, they’re missing the collection,” Garman said.

As a consequence, the filled containers would be either be sitting on the curb until Tuesday — the ordinance requires them to be removed by midnight — or someone else would have to wheel them back, then wheel them out again to the curb late Monday. And everyone who lives here knows the longer a cart is on the curb, the more likely it will be knocked over by animals, wind or surging water.

“In an ideal world,” Garman said, “they would follow the schedule. I think mainly, it needs to be an education thing.”

One of the committee’s tasks will be researching how other resort communities schedule their pickups, he said. There will also need to be a discussion on incentives and fines.

Before the change, Garman said, the town had picked up trash on the Beach Road and oceanfront three days a week in the summer. Gauging from the tonnage collected, it did not warrant the extra day. But people whose household produces excessive recycling or trash are welcome to buy additional containers from the town for $75.

Overall, rental and operations managers at Village Realty in Nags Head said that the new schedule was working well, Maslin Seal, the company’s marketing director, said in an e-mail. Although there had been a slight uptick in the requests from arriving guests for removal of trash left from previous guests, she said, the percentage of the total of calls was small.

But Seal said that a number of rentals in their inventory are located on the west side of the Village at Nags Head, which is serviced by dumpsters. Commercial dumpsters are currently being changed out from side-loaders to front-loaders that hold twice as many cubic yards of trash.

Seal said that one of the company’s rental managers has been invited to participate in the town sanitation committee to discuss the new plan.

“So whatever issues there are,” she said, “at least they are working toward a solution with input from all the players.”

Between Feb. 16, 2016 and Aug. 16, 2016, the town collected a total of 3,386 tons of residential trash. Of that, 787 tons — 23 percent — were recyclables. Residential garbage represents 47 percent of the total it collects, which does not include commercial recyclables. A recycling service is offered in the summer for oceanfront cottages, but it is handled by Bay Disposal & Recycling in Powells Point. For the rest of the town, the recycling is picked up by the town’s regular trash trucks, which haul it to Bay Disposal.

Some commercial enterprises also recycle on their own, and recycling dumpsters are available to the public at several locations in the town.

Garman said the town’s goal is to expand its recycling service to restaurants, bars, motels, weekly rentals and retail businesses. The more trash is recycled, the more is saved in landfill costs. Nags Head currently pays $600,000 annually in tipping fees. Recycling costs are offset by the revenue — about $10 a ton — paid for recycled material. The more recycled, the more revenue.

The town has an $88,000 annual contract for Bay Disposal to pick up recycling on the beachfront in the summer, but residential recycling is covered by town property taxes. The average household is paying about half of what it paid when Bay Disposal picked up recycling for an $8 a month subscription, Garman said.

Economics, however, should not be the only reason for recycling, he said, especially in an environmentally friendly community.

“Even if there is a cost to it,” Garman said, “it’s worth it because there are intangibles to it other than cost.”

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