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Improving Solid Waste Management Across NC

| Environmental & Regulatory Reform

While most fixated their attention to the controversial provisions added to House Bill 56: Amend Environmental Laws, one provision critical to North Carolina’s competitiveness slipped under the radar. House Bill 56’s solid waste management provision may have been omitted from much of the public discourse on the bill, but it is one that should capture our attention. The provision changes flow control restrictions for municipal solid waste (MSW) management facilities, reducing constraints and increasing competition.

Opposition to the provision argued that changing the flow control ordinances would keep local governments from meeting financial obligations for solid waste management facilities, cause costs to rise and hinder competitiveness, but the reality is there is no merit to any of those claims. Most of the more than 9 million tons of waste generated in North Carolina is disposed of safely and economically through eight privately-owned regional MSW landfills – 60% to be exact. In fact, it has been North Carolina’s long-held policy since the 1990s to reduce the number of small local landfills and have private industry increase investment into facilities that are safer and more economically viable. House Bill 56 establishes an orderly phase out of local government control over MSW management, creating greater competition to keep costs down and reduce the total land used for landfills. The law exempts local governments who have existing landfill bonds until those are paid, negating the first argument made by the law’s detractors. Furthermore, greater competition moderates cost, creating lower rates, and flow control itself hinders competition in that it creates a hidden tax that makes waste disposal more expensive than other available options.

North Carolina is expected to add another two million residents by 2030, meaning our state’s generation of solid waste will only increase. As such, it is critical that we advance solid waste management that is both environmentally and economically sound. The solid waste provision included in HB 56 will help do just that, by improving competition among facilities and reducing the environmental impact of landfills.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber