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Durham Strategic Plan Dashboard

Shared Economic

Create a Safer Community Together

Connected, Engaged, and Inclusive Communities

Innovative and High Performing Organization

Thriving and Vibrant Environment

Status Indicator: In Progress | On Hold | Complete/Ongoing

Initiative: 5.33 Explore new services to help divert more waste

Thriving & Vibrant Environment


Waste diversion describes redirecting waste from landfills to some other point through options like reduction, reuse, repurposing, composting, or recycling. Diverting waste has significant environmental benefits over landfilling. Additionally, there are an estimated 20-25 years left in the current “airspace” (measured in cubic yards) of the landfill that Durham uses, and as space continues to fill, landfilling costs will likely continue to rise, and diversion options could become more financially advantageous as well as environmentally preferable.  

Key Measures & Data Analysis

The waste diversion rate is a measure of how much waste is diverted from landfills. It is calculated by dividing the weight of diverted waste (such as recycling) by the weight of all waste and multiplying it by 100. The waste diversion rate is important for assessing the environmental impact of waste management and the success of recycling programs. A waste diversion rate of 90% or more is considered “zero waste”.

Impact of service expansion

Why is it important?

Exploring new services to divert more waste now is a proactive approach to stave off the inevitable. Currently, we send valuable resources to the landfill. Developing new services or markets as well as fully and properly utilizing currently existing services and markets will help to use, the materials to their fullest potential instead, for the economic and environmental benefit of impacted communities. For example, reducing and diverting food waste creates the value-added material, compost, that can beneficially be used and sold locally, while saving space, and reducing the amount of emissions from landfills.

What have we been doing?

We implemented our first annual pumpkin drop this year. We partnered with Keep Durham Beautiful to provide "Pumpkin Drop" events at parks throughout the city. The pumpkins received were composted. The events were held on November 4 from 8 am until noon at: C.M. Herndon, Valley Springs, Rock Quarry, Merrick-Moore, Southern Boundaries, and Bethesda parks. Residents also dropped off pumpkins in the parking lot at the I.R. Holmes, Sr. Recreation Center at Campus Hills, and the Waste Disposal and Recycling Center. We continued to accept pumpkins at the Waste Disposal and Recycling Center through November 18.

As planned, we expanded the curbside food waste program,  with the first collection service for new participants set to occur on Friday 12/15. The total number of households now being served is ~ 440. 

We have begun planning and coordinating annual waste diversion events (for different types of materials) for each month of the year starting in the calendar year 2024.

We had a preliminary meeting with a vendor to explore smaller drop-off sites for textiles.

What's next?

Continued work to identify markets for low-density, low-weight, high-volume items (such as polystyrene or mattresses) and large heavy items (such as furniture) to begin developing a new process for how we dispose of them or potentially divert them. 

Reestablish annual e-Waste and Shredding events. 


Budget and Management Services Department
Office of Performance and Innovation
Strategy and Performance Division