Poster Paper: Why Waste? Local Factors and Recycling Outcomes. a Case Study of North Carolina Counties

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Titiksha Fernandes, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

In 2015, the United States per capita waste generation was 4.48 lbs. per day, while only 26% of that was recycled. It is evident that recycling numbers remain low. While states are responsible for the planning and implementation of their waste management programs, they in turn share this responsibility with their counties and municipalities. North Carolina passed the NC Solid Waste Management Act in 1989 and has since developed 10 year plans to manage their waste and increase recycling efforts. In the past decade, NC’s total annual per capita recycling has increased over 58 pounds implying that recycling efforts are creating positive outcomes. However, from a policy evaluation and feedback perspective, the consideration of what factors influences these outcomes is important to the design of effective strategies to combat the challenges associated with waste management. While previous literature has examined some of the factors that affect recycling rates, a thorough examination of all the factors has not been conducted. This could lead to some inaccuracies in the evaluation and planning of waste programs and the ranking of county recycling performance.

This study uses data from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), Census data, and State Election data to examine the factors that affect recycling rates at the local level in North Carolina. Specifically, the study employs a panel dataset to analyze the economic, political, social, structural, and geographical factors that influence the recycling rate across the counties of North Carolina. From these findings, the study will highlight and identify existing efficiencies and future potential policy strategies for the implementation of recycling programs.

To my knowledge an evaluation utilizing an extensive list of factors has not been conducted for the state of North Carolina. Additionally, previous literature stems from single disciplines, neglecting the interdisciplinary aspects of recycling programs. This place-based study is innovative in that it looks at recycling outcomes using panel data across several parameters at the local level. By understanding the extent to which local factors increase recycling rates, we can have a better understanding of the underlying reasons for the variation in recycling rates across different regions of the state and identify areas of improvement.