It’s an occurrence that happens way, way too often. It’s one of Wrightsville Beach’s dirty environmental secrets, one that not only goes unaddressed but also mostly unnoticed.
Residents and visitors alike worry about the environmental impact of runoff, illegal dumping of marine sewage holding tanks, of proposed fracking, seismic testing, offshore drilling. They fret over what could happen if a project that currently exists just on a blueprint ever became a reality on these shores.
But for all of the community passion about the ocean, waterways and the environment, the town has a trashy underside that’s hidden in the depths of the public waste barrels and the green curbside waste carts.
As beachgoers leave the shore they greatly enjoy, they toss tons upon tons of recyclable trash into blue barrels on the beach strand. This is picked up by public works and goes straight to the New Hanover County Landfill.
Twice a week, sanitation trucks empty green trash carts at each driveway. More often than not, these carts are full of recyclables. Wrightsville Beach, the sparkling jewel of the eastern North Carolina coastline, the draw to eco-friendly tourists and residents alike, has no recycling policy, no curbside pick-up.
There’s too little in the way of recycling going on. Wrightsville Beach needs the same commitment to recycling it gives to fighting offshore drilling.
On the strand, bins for recyclable material at six select beach-side street ends or parking lots get passed by for the more convenient, and closer, blue trash containers, recycled pickle barrels. It has been N.C. law since 2009 that plastic bottles be recycled and that’s not happening.
Town leaders, residents and visitors need to make changes to reduce the amount of waste going into the county landfill.
Curbside recycling is a second area where Wrightsville Beach is failing the environment. With the closing of Green Coast Recycling in July, residents lost the only option for voluntary curbside pickup of recyclables. Those committed to recycling must take their waste to the county-run collection center at the town’s municipal complex.
While some residents and second home owners may be willing to put in that effort, most vacation cottage and condo renters and many of the college students that occupy properties in the offseason aren’t likely to do it until it is mandated.
Changes must be made, starting with putting plastic recycling bins for plastics and cans at a minimum out onto the strand, immediately next to the blue trash barrels, giving beachgoers more motivation to deposit recyclables where indicated. As it now stands, many out on the beach may not realize there is even a recycling option at the six beach accesses where it is available.
The bigger task would be for the Board of Aldermen to man-up, reverse itself and mandate residential curbside recycling in the town.
Not one recycle hauler put in for a contract to serve the town the last time they were given an option to place a formal bid. One recycling company told us the bid requirements were too expensive to make it worthwhile to come into Wrightsville Beach to pick up voluntary curbside recycling.
It seems logical the town could find a way to incentivize the collection of recycling. The aldermen, working with the town manager, should immediately begin to craft an ordinance to mandate recycling.
But it’s not just the responsibility of town officials. Residents, renters and visitors alike need to put forth the effort to make recycling a point of pride.
Words and actions need to come into alignment. Wrightsville is either committed to the environment and endeavors to protect it, or we are not.