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Future Solid Waste Options

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Nurturing Our Community  Council Goal 
Learn more about the Town's solid waste collections and the possible construction of a transfer station. Questions? Please contact us at

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Solid Waste Advisory Group

On August 25, 2014, a Solid Waste Advisory Group (SWAG) with representatives from the Towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, and Orange County began meeting to develop an interlocal agreement. The SWAG also includes representatives from UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Healthcare. The SWAG has a website that includes up-to-date meeting agendas and summaries. Link:

Solid Waste Collections in Chapel Hill

The Town of Chapel Hill collects more than 270 tons of garbage each week. Public Works crews collect the garbage and take it to a transfer station in Durham, N.C., operated by Waste Industries. Prior to July 1, 2013, Town crews took garbage to the Orange County Regional Landfill, which was established in 1972 as a joint venture among Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro. In October 2011, the Orange County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) expressed intent to close the landfill and the landfill closed on June 30, 2013.

The Town is exploring alternative options for solid waste disposal, as well as ways of increasing efficiency with solid waste collection. The Town contracted SCS Engineers to provide a Comprehensive Review of Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Options (study). The study examined the Town’s solid waste collections and disposal programs to identify opportunities to enhance these services, improve efficiencies, and evaluate innovative technologies in the solid waste industry.

On Oct. 29, 2012, the Council considered the study recommendations at a work session. Among the short-term recommendations was a plan to transition the Town's garbage disposal operations to a transfer station in Durham when the Orange County Landfill closed and build its own Transfer Station facility, possibly partnering with other jurisdictions.

At the Dec. 3, 2012 business meeting, the Council authorized the Town Manager to proceed with the implementation of the recommendations from the study. The Council approved a budget ordinance amendment to allow for the Town to haul its solid waste to a transfer station in Durham once the landfill closed. The ordinance amendment appropriated $358,000 from the General Fund to pay for personnel and operational costs for the balance of the fiscal year. The amendment adjusted the Vehicle Replacement Fund and Vehicle Maintenance Fund for the purchase and upkeep of four replacement solid waste vehicles. 

A first step in exploring the development of a transfer station was a Recycling Services and Transfer Station RFP that was issued on July 21, 2013. This was a joint initiative among the Towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough. Discussions regarding a future solid waste transfer station were delayed while a long-term funding plan for recycling services and an interlocal agreement were developed with Orange County.

On August 25, 2014, a Solid Waste Advisory Group (SWAG) began meeting to develop an interlocal agreement. The SWAG has representatives from the Town of Chapel Hill, Town of Carrboro, Town of Hillsborough, Orange County, UNC Chapel Hill, and UNC Healthcare. The group presented an initial status update on their progress at the Assembly of Governments meeting on November 19, 2014.

The SWAG initially focused on evaluating funding options for recycling services, and Town Council approved the SWAG's funding recommendation for FY16 and FY17. The SWAG is now focused on reviewing long-term funding options for the recycling and solid waste services provided by Orange County and completing an interlocal agreement. Once the interlocal agreement is in place, further discussion regarding solid waste management options (e.g., transfer station) may be discussed by the SWAG. 

As part of the 2015 bond referendum, a $5.2 million bond order for future solid waste management options was approved.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why was the Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Options Study conducted?
The study is being used by Town Council, Solid Waste Services Division staff and other Town staff to guide decision making when considering current and future solid waste management issues. By commissioning the study the Town recognizes the closure of the Orange County Landfill unit mandated a change in solid waste management practices and we are seizing an opportunity to review and re-define our future solid waste management program to include systematic operational efficiencies and innovative technological advancements in the solid waste industry for the short term and long-term benefit of our residents.

What are the recommendations of the Solid Waste Collection and Disposal Options Study?
The study included short-term, mid-term and long-term recommendations. Among the short-term recommendations, which has been completed, was to begin transitioning waste disposal to a transfer station in Durham in April 2013 with all waste being hauled to the transfer station by July 1, 2013. The Town now hauls its waste to a transfer station in Durham that is operated by Waste Industries.

The FY 2012-2013 budget was also amended by $358,600 to fund current waste operations and replace older trash collection vehicles.

The SWAG is working to develop a new interlocal agreement with Orange County for recycling and solid waste services provided by Orange County. See more at

Franchising or outsourcing any aspect of residential or commercial solid waste collection was not recommended as it may result in a reduction of the high-level of service currently offered by the Town.

What is a transfer station?
A transfer station facility serves as a link between a town’s solid waste collection program and a final waste management facility. When waste enters a transfer station, it is immediately consolidated and loaded into transfer trailer trucks that typically hold 15-25 tons of waste for transport off site. This process happens quickly with waste being transported off site within hours of its arrival. Long-term storage of waste does not occur at transfer stations.

A transfer station facility requires only a few acres for on-site operations. [An example location is between the Town Operation Center and Chapel Hill Transit off of Millhouse Road.]

What kind of waste does Chapel Hill produce?
For the period of July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, the Town of Chapel Hill collected and disposed 17,039 tons of yard waste and garbage. The Town spends about $3.6 million per year on residential and commercial solid waste services.

The Town of Chapel Hill currently collects about 14,000 tons of waste from residential and commercial customers each year. To collect this volume of waste, approximately 40 collection routes are run each week, requiring only 3-6 transfer trailers to haul waste to the final waste management destination on a typical day.

Approximately 2,700 tons of yard waste were transported and delivered to the Orange County Landfill for management via grinding and mulching in fiscal year 2015-2016.

Total waste disposal quantities have decreased over the past decade, declining more than 27 percent. This decrease is primarily associated with a reduction in commercial waste. The commercial waste contribution to total waste disposal has decreased from 58 percent in fiscal year 2005-2006 to 53 percent in fiscal year 2014-2015.  

Also see -- FAQs about Recycling Services & Transfer Station Request for Proposals (RFP)


Orange County Solid Waste Advisory Board

Orange County Solid Waste Management Plan


Additional Information




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