Daniel Dinkin’s Volunteer Experience

As someone who initially moved to the triangle area to attend UNC Chapel Hill, I found that I didn’t have time to get as involved with the community as I wanted due to school. However, I was always motivated to volunteer, both to meet people who share the same interest as I and to be part of a bigger cause. I volunteered with several organizations in Chapel Hill but I was still looking to get involved with an environmentally focused nonprofit.Once I learned of Keep Durham Beautiful, I decided to check out some of the volunteer events and I was happily surprised.

Daniel unloading tires at the 2nd Annual Tire Recycling Drive

My first volunteer event was the ReUse Rodeo where I served as a greeter who handed out goody bags filled with resources and tax return forms. This event encouraged locals to donate used clothing, books etc. I learned that there are many community organizations and non-profits who can utilize donations. This was also the first time I met the KDB personnel, Britt Huggins and Monica Ospina, who were extremely welcoming and immediately made me feel like I was part of the family. Their warm welcome, compounded with the cause that Keep Durham supported and the things I was learning fueled my interest to volunteer at other events as well.

My second volunteer experience was at the Durham Earth Day Festival, which brought awareness to the issues of sustainable resources and cleanliness of the environment. I was a Waste Warrior where I was at a station with three bins: trash, compost and recycling. I directed festival goers to dispose of their waste accordingly. While volunteering, I connected with another volunteer who was a former soccer player at UNC and works for a compost organization. She opened my eyes about the importance of compost and how integral it was to keep a clean environment. I was also surprised to learn that most of the things we consider trash can be easily composted.

The third event I was a part of was I love Durham Limpio- which consisted of working with Latino’s and non-Latino’s to remove litter in areas around Durham. We collected approximately 2,000 lbs. of litter. It was interesting to see how much of the litter we gathered were recyclables.

The last event I was part of was the 2nd Annual Tire Recycling Drive. There I met other volunteers, Ian and Anna, as well as an individual who worked with the Durham Public Health Department. He informed me that standing water in tires is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus, which was often asymptomatic and can be sexually transmitted. I also learned about the closed landfill that was nearby and how costly it was to maintain and treat trash.

Through my volunteer experience with Keep Durham Beautiful I have learned so much about the environment and not only how to keep Durham beautiful but how to also make conscious decisions in my own household. I found myself figuring out how to compost some materials from my trash and how to properly recycle. I learned of this organization through a friend, who is part of the YNPN mailing list and it’s hard to say if I would have known of it otherwise.

Celebrate Earth Month with Keep Durham Beautiful!

Earth Day is fast-approaching. Do you know how you’re celebrating? Consider joining Keep Durham Beautiful for one or more of our events this month!

April 22, 8am-2pm: Gather up your unwanted household goods for Durham’s first annual ReUse Rodeo! On Saturday, April 22nd, we will be accepting gently used books, clothing, furniture, working electronics, household appliances, cookware, tools, craft supplies, and more, to be donated to area non-profits and distributed back into the community. A complete list can be found on the event page. Paper shredding and e-recycling will also be available. Clear up your household clutter, help the earth, and give your gently used items a new life! The event will be held in the parking lot of The Shoppes at Lakewood at 2050 Chapel Hill Road. Want to help out at the inaugural Reuse Rodeo? Sign up to volunteer!

April 23, 12pm-5pm: Join us for Durham’s Earth Day Festival on Sunday, April 23rd! Participants will enjoy green activities and demos, learn about sustainable practices and products at the Sustainability Expo and Earth Day Market, enjoy great music and food, and much more! The festival will take place at Durham Central Park at 501 Foster Street. To learn more, visit the event page. Interested in helping out? We are looking for waste warriors to help with recycling and composting at the event. Sign up to volunteer today!

April 27, 8am-2pm: The Community Appearance and Litter Index is a quantitative assessment used across the nation to gauge roadside litter levels. Volunteers from the community receive training and then drive set routes in Durham to conduct a visual inspection of litter levels and help identify future clean-up sites. Sign up with your friends and help us make Durham a cleaner community! Breakfast and lunch are available for all volunteers. More information is available on the event page.

April 29, 9am-1pm: We are bringing I Love Durham Limpio back! We are teaming up with Durham community partners to do an extensive litter cleanup with ALL members of the community. The purpose of this volunteer opportunity is for Durham community members to join forces by giving back to their community while learning about the environment and the resources Durham offers. We’d love for you to join us on April 29th from 9am-1pm! Don’t forget to bring your old shower heads to be traded in for NEW water efficient ones. Please visit the I Love Durham Limpio event page to view more information.

Durham Recycles Over 19,000 lbs. of Tires to Help Prevent Zika Virus


Durham Tire Recycling Drive July 2016

Durham Residents dropped of unwanted tires at the Durham Tire Recycling Drive that took place at the City of Durham’s Waste Disposal and Recycling Center n July. Residents who missed the event are invited to drop off up to five used tires at no charge.

Residents May Still Drop Off Up to Five Used Tires At No Charge

DURHAM, N.C. – Thanks to Durham residents there are now 975 fewer places for mosquitoes and the diseases they carry to flourish with the recycling of thousands of pounds of old tires earlier this month.

As part of the Durham Tire Recycling Drive held on July 9, residents dropped off 975 unwanted tires from their yards, diverting approximately 19,455 pounds of material from the community’s waste stream and decreasing the number of potential mosquito breeding locations in Durham.

Durham residents who missed the Tire Recycling Drive can still drop off up to five used tires (off the rim only) at no charge at the City of Durham’s Waste Disposal and Recycling Center, located at 2115 E. Club Blvd., during the center’s normal operating hours.

Durham Tire Recycling Drive July 2016

As part of the Durham Tire Recycling Drive held on July 9, residents dropped off 975 unwanted tires from their yards, diverting approximately 19,455 pounds of material from the community’s waste stream and decreasing the number of potential mosquito breeding locations in Durham

While there are still no locally acquired mosquito-borne Zika cases, there have been at least 25 known travel-associated cases in North Carolina according to the Durham County Department of Public Health. Limiting exposure to mosquitoes by reducing breeding sites, like old tires, is an extremely important part of Durham’s effort to limit the spread of Zika virus. Old tires and other items that hold standing water, including bird baths, containers and gutters, encourage mosquito breeding and the diseases they may carry. With increased attention and concern about the effects of Zika Virus, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the department are encouraging people to decrease mosquitoes around the home through removing sources of standing water.

According to Keep Durham Beautiful Sustainability Specialist Erin Victor, the tires collected earlier this month will be put to good use since old tires can be recycled into a number of different products, including rubber mulch for playgrounds and landscaping as well as rubberized asphalt concrete (RAC). “RAC is considered a cost effective, durable, and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional asphalt used to pave roads. So, not only did these residents get rid of mosquito-breeding locations in their yards, they were also able to repurpose their used tires, which is wonderful for our environment,” Victor said.

The July 9 Tire Recycling Drive, a City-County Collaborative effort, was a partnership between Keep Durham Beautiful, City of Durham Solid Waste Management Department, City of Durham Neighborhood Improvement Services, City of Durham General Services Department, Durham County General Services Department, and the Durham County Department of Public Health.

About Keep Durham Beautiful
Keep Durham Beautiful is a nonprofit, volunteer organization working in partnership with the City of Durham General Services Department and Durham County to encourage residents, businesses, and community organizations to protect the environment and enhance the appearance of Durham through cleanup events, beautification projects, waste reduction, and educational activities. To learn more, visit the website, like on Facebook, and follow on Instagram, flickr, and Twitter.


Can I recycle this? Your Recycling FAQs answered

Recycling Tour - January 2016

Durham residents joined Keep Durham Beautiful and the City of Durham Solid Waste Management Department on a guided tour of the Sonoco Recycling plant in Raleigh.

Last month, Keep Durham Beautiful and the City of Durham Solid Waste Management Department partnered together to offer a free bus tour of the Sonoco recycling facility in Raleigh, NC.

The tour featured a trip to the City of Durham’s new transfer station, where our solid waste and recycling is consolidated into larger trucks then hauled either to the landfill or recycling plant, respectively. Following the life of our recycling from curbside to market, the tour made its way to the Sonoco Recycling Plant where our single stream recycling in Durham is sent after it is collected.  Sonoco is a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) that sorts and prepares recyclable materials to sell to manufacturing end-users. The manufacturing end-users turn our paper, plastics, and metals into new products, keeping these materials out of the landfill.

Interested residents took a guided tour through the state-of-the art facility and saw how a combination of manual and mechanical sorting allowed Sonoco to separate and bale the various materials (aluminum, steel, cardboard, mixed paper, and different types of plastics) with impressive accuracy. Afterwards, everyone was welcomed to ask both City of Durham Solid Waste Management and Sonoco representatives their burning recycling and waste reduction questions. Here are some of the answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions related to recycling in Durham:

Recycling FAQ’s:

Recycling Tour - MRF

Sonoco Recycling is a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) that sorts and prepares recyclable materials to sell to manufacturer end-users. Durham’s single-stream recyclables go to this recycling plant in Raleigh after collection.

Can I recycle phone books?

Yes. You can recycle your old (or new, but unwanted) phone books in the recycling bin. Want to opt-out of receiving phone books at altogether? Visit: https://www.yellowpagesoptout.com/

Can I recycle pizza boxes? What if they have some residual grease?

Yes. Pizza boxes are recyclable, even with some grease, but remove all trash and as much food residue as possible.

What should I do with plastic bags?

Plastic bags are not accepted in our single-steam recycling bins. They actually will shut down the machines at the MRF. You can recycle plastic bags and other film plastics (such as case wrap, produce bags, food storage bags, newspaper bags, and bubble wrap) at most local grocery stores. To find the nearest drop off location for film plastics, visit: http://bit.ly/1plMotU

How do I recycle my electronic waste?

Electronic waste can be taken to the quarterly E-Waste and Recycling Events hosted by the City of Durham. Don’t want to wait until the next event? Residents are invited to drop off e-waste at the City Transfer Station or County Convenience Sites. Triangle Ecycling and Kramden Institute will also accept computer equipment at no charge.

What should I do with confidential papers?

Confidential papers should be shredded and placed in a clear bag before recycling. You can shred and recycle confidential papers at the quarterly E-Waste and Paper Shredding Event. City residents can also bring up to 4 boxes of paper to shred to the transfer station (2115 E. Club Blvd) on Wednesdays by appointment (919-560-4505).

Which number plastics can be recycled?

You can recycle all plastics in your single-stream recycling bin except #6 (polystyrene) which is Styrofoam and plastic bags and other film plastics (see above question about recycling plastic bags).

To learn more about what is recyclable in Durham, please refer to the City and County’s websites:

Want to join us for the next recycling plant tour?

Keep Durham Beautiful and the City of Durham Solid Waste Management Department will be offering periodic tours to the recycling plant in Raleigh. If you are interested in joining us, please sign up for the monthly Keep Durham Beautiful newsletter featuring volunteer opportunities, bulb and tree seedling giveaways, community grant opportunities, recent KDB news, and information on events such as the recycling tour. You can register for our newsletter here: http://bit.ly/1Q0TfHs or email info@keepdurhambeautiful.org.

Erin Victor is an AmeriCorps Project GEOS Service Member working on environmental outreach and volunteer coordination with Keep Durham Beautiful.

America Recycles Day


Earlier this week we celebrated America Recycles Day (ARD), a national Keep America Beautiful initiative that seeks to raise awareness about recycling each November. Started in 1997, America Recycles Day is the only nationally recognized day promoting and celebrating recycling in the U.S. According to the EPA, the average individual produces 4.4 pounds of waste PER DAY [1]It is estimated that 75% of this waste is recyclable, however only 30% is currently being recycled [2]. Clearly, we have room to REDUCE our waste stream, REUSE materials we purchase, and increase the amount of materials we RECYCLE.

This year, the theme of America Recycles Day is “Bathroom, Bags & Gadgets.” In efforts to increase the national recycling rate (34.3%), ARD efforts this year are focusing on recycling common products that are often forgotten about – like shampoo containers, plastic bags, and personal electronic devices like phones and tablets. Now, it should be noted- not all of these items can go into your single stream curbside recycling bin that you have at home, school and work. Check out this Recycling Locator to identify where you can take some of those items you are not sure what to do with- such as plastic bags and other film plastics, electronic devices, and clothing. For more information about what you can put in your curbside recycling bins, here is a helpful guide put together by Durham County’s Solid Waste Management department

Why Reduce, Reuse and Recycle?

  • To conserve natural resources. Did you know that recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees [3] and recycling one ton of plastic can save up to 2,000 gallons of gasoline? [4]
  • To save energy. Did you know that recycling aluminium requires 95% less energy that making it from scratch? The energy savings are  70% for plastics and 40% for paper. [5]
  • To save landfill space. Did you know that more than 28 billion glass bottles and jars end up in the landfill every year? That’s the equivalent of filling up two Empire State Buildings every three weeks. [6]
  • To create jobs. Did you know that for every job created by burning or burying waste, 25 recycling-based manufacturing jobs can be created from the same amount of waste? [7]
  • To reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Did you know that if the U.S. can raise its 34.5% recycling rate to 75%, it will be the CO2 equivalent of removing 50 million cars from the road? [6]

How you can get involved:

How do you Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle at your home, school, work, or organization? Let us know about your efforts to reduce waste and keep Durham clean and green. 


  1. Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures 2013; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  2. 11 Facts About Recycling, dosomething.org 
  3. Recycling Fun Facts, The University of Michigan, Plant Operations
  4. Recycling Facts, MRC Polymers
  5. The price of virtue:How to get people recycling more – even if they do not particularly want toThe Economist June 7, 2007.
  6. Recycling Facts, Recycle Across America, 
  7. Recycling Works Fast Facts, Recycling Works 

It’s All About the Energy

The following post was written by our guest blogger, Veronica Kim. Veronica is an upcoming senior at Durham Academy writing about her experiences as a volunteer with Keep Durham Beautiful throughout the summer. 

Annabella Gong, a senior at Durham Academy and leader of the school's Go Green Club

Annabella Gong, a senior at Durham Academy and leader of the school’s Go Green Club

Every Monday morning at Durham Academy, students have the opportunity to make announcements to their peers, whether it be about clubs, sports teams, or anything in between. This year, Annabella Gong, a spirited senior with short hair and a huge voice, took the podium. Gong, leader of the Go Green Club at DA, began the announcement that would eventually become a running joke among the student body: “Please recycle your water bottles, but first, please take your caps off the bottles! The caps are non-recyclable and need to be thrown in the trash.”

After that first announcement, it was gradually shortened to the following scene: Gong sprinting her way down the auditorium aisle to be the first at the podium, a ripple of laughter through the students and teachers as she grinned knowingly at them, and a quick Remember to take your caps off your water bottles before you recycle them! Thanks guys before going to sit back down.

This little episode, although now outdated – since companies have begun to recycle water bottles with caps still intact – is just one example of Gong’s dedication to environmental conservation at DA.

Gong not only started this weekly tradition-of-sorts but fiercely upheld her passions for recycling elsewhere. Every Wednesday, a different DA advisory completes recycling, where the students collect the waste from each recycling bin on campus and consolidate it into three massive containers. It is a messy, unforgiving job that involves many soggy papers, half-empty soda cans, and, of course, the constant need to unscrew the caps from water bottles that have been discarded without regard for proper recycling protocol. However, every Wednesday without fail, Gong and her fellow Go Green Club leaders could be found working tirelessly alongside the advisory members, unscrewing lids, dumping out excess liquids, smiles on their faces.

When Gong was asked about what drove this indefatigable love for the environment, she responded: “I’ve always cared for the environment. I come from a family that is very environmentally conscious… my dad owns a garden, we compost… it’s just a personal interest of mine.” Environmental protection is a topic that has recently been brought to the forefront of public awareness through Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change. Gong shares her views as well; for her, it is not a very two-sided debate. “Sustainability is the one issue that holds no ambiguities… either you protect Mother Nature, or you unnecessarily suffocate your future,” she says.

In fact, Gong went beyond the recycling norm, expanding the Go Green Club at DA to include a new program called TerraCycle®. TerraCycle® is a nationwide initiative that collects hard-to-recycle materials, such as granola bar wrappers, chip bags, shoes, and plastic cups, and upcycles them to create an array of products (including backpacks, park benches, fences, etc). At the beginning of second semester, the Go Green Club gave a presentation on TerraCycle®, and Gong announced that a plethora of small boxes would be scattered around the campus so that students could easily and conveniently TerraCycle® their waste. Since the TerraCycle® program consists of many different categories (after all, sneakers cannot be easily upcycled alongside toothbrushes), DA would primarily be TerraCycling® granola bar wrappers and chip bags, two things that abound on a high school campus.

The TerraCycle® program exploded (for lack of a better term) at DA. Gong puts it this way: “We were just giving it a shot… at first people were like, ‘Oh, this is pretty cool,’ but then we really started to accumulate a ton of waste. By the end of five months we had over a thousand wrappers.” Not only were students actively involved in the TerraCycle® program, they were helpful and friendly towards members of the Go Green Club who were making it happen. “People… would always be happy and encouraging when they saw me,” recalls Gong.

Gong was honored at DA’s Magnificent Seven assembly in April, which celebrates seven outstanding individuals who have made a lasting impression on the DA community. She won the award for “caring for the environment and property” almost unanimously. When the Upper School director stood up to present the award, nearly everybody in the audience had already guessed its recipient.

Perhaps the reason that the Go Green Club flourished this year was due to Gong’s incredible, authentic love for the practices that she preached. “I’m a loud person, and I get really excited about things easily, and infusing that energy into Go Green Club helped elevate it to a more active, known component of campus life,” she says.

When asked about how other schools can work to implement more effective recycling programs, Gong said, “People are open to recycling, they just might hesitate in participating in these initiatives because they don’t entirely understand their value and purpose. It’s important to help them understand why you should recycle, and from there, people will do it.” She stresses that a successful recycling program cannot survive under the guidance of just a few people: “There’s more of an impact [in] having the entire school involved.”

But what is the most important part about leading such a prosperous recycling initiative? “You need someone who is very vocal… who is not afraid to embarrass themselves over something that he or she is very passionate about. I was just really passionate about recycling; people noticed, and then they got jazzed up to participate as well,” explains Gong. “Keep it fun and enjoyable… that is the most effective way to get the message across.”

Her closing statement, though, was a lot more personal. She acknowledged the recognition she received for her leadership in Go Green Club, but also admitted that it was unusual. “I’m very blessed to have been recognized,” she said. “Personal recognition helps encourage me to continue doing what I’m doing, but as long as the environment is making progress and people enjoy doing it, I am very happy.”

To learn more about the TerraCycle® program, visit: https://www.terracycle.com/en-US.