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WILMINGTON — If you're a homeowner in the City of Wilmington, chances are you get your recyclables hauled away every week. But people who don't live in a stand-alone house, or those who live outside the city limits, are on their own.

Superintendent Bill Reed said, "If they live in an apartment or condo complex, the easiest solution is to use one of New Hanover County's drop-off facilities. And they have drop-off facilities throughout New Hanover County. So that's the best way to go for people who live in apartments and condos on dumpster service."

Doctor jack hall is chairman of the Environmental Studies Department at UNC Wilmington. He says the limited recycling program in New Hanover County may be one reason why so many people throw their bottles and cans in the trash.

Hall said, "The curb-side is real easy for people who live in the suburbs or in single-family dwellings. And that's great. But, there are a lot of people who don't, who would like to participate in that kind of program, and just don't have a real good means to do it."

Hall said, "The more work people have to put into it, the less likely they are to do it."

"We have about 14,000 recycling customers right now. That's about 55 percent of our population," Reed said.

And while that number is above the national average, environmentalists say it's still not good enough.

"I think what we need to do is look into if there is a way to expand the program and be more inclusive with corporations and multi-dwelling facilities," Hall said.

Jennifer O'Keefe with Keep America Beautiful said, "Anytime you have something that makes it more difficult for people to recycle, it does put up a barrier. But we do still have the infrastructure in place for anyone who wants to recycle to do so."

That infrastructure includes recycling drop-off sites like the one in Wrightsville Beach. If you live in New Hanover County and don't have curb-side pickup, you can bring your recyclables there. But with only seven drop-off sites in the county, finding one near you can be a challenge.

Here are the locations (click image for larger version):

recycling centers The areas in yellow, the City of Wilmington and Carolina Beach, have curb-side pickup. But the areas in white do not. Notice the lack of drop off sites between monkey junction and the Carolina Beach line. That means if you live at the southern end of the county, your nearest drop off site is #6, just north of Monkey Junction. Total time: about ten minutes.

So what's the solution? New Hanover County commissioners were close to approving a county-wide curbside pickup program a few years ago. But it didn't get the support it needed. And they say there are no plans to try to put one in place anytime soon. The best advice, if you live in an apartment complex or office that does not recycle, ask your office or apartment manager to initiate a pickup service from a private company.

Or you can take your recyclables to the nearest drop-off site. It may take a few minutes out of your day, but it's a simple thing you can do to make the earth a little greener.

Twenty years ago only one curbside recycling program existed in the United States. By 2005 almost 9,000 curbside programs had sprouted up across the nation.

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