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High Country Recycling on U.S. 321/421 in Vilas has been open since October 2012.

Anna Oakes | Watauga Democrat

Originally published: 2013-11-27 15:09:54
Last modified: 2013-11-27 15:10:39

Private recycling sees job growth

by Anna Oakes

Watauga County has been a leader in recycling during the past few years, and now private recycling businesses are seeing growth in the county and statewide.

Recycling jobs in North Carolina's private sector increased by nearly 12 percent since 2010, according to a study released Nov. 21 by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

"Recycling is an important initiative to support manufacturers and reduce our long-term dependence on landfills," Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement. "The continued, strong growth of recycling as an economic sector validates its value to our environment and its importance to our economy as a generator of jobs."

Studies conducted by DENR's Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service in 1994, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2010 and this year show increases in recycling employment in North Carolina during time. This year's report surveyed and researched more than 700 private sector recycling businesses, according to the study.

The study found that more than 17,000 direct private sector recycling-related jobs exist in North Carolina with a total estimated annual payroll of $442 million. In addition, 45 percent of the recycling businesses surveyed anticipate creating more jobs during the next two years.

And, 28 percent of businesses surveyed report manufacturing a product using a combined 2,264,565 tons of recycled materials.

DENR publishes an online North Carolina Recycling Markets Directory, which lists recycling companies that collect, transport, broker, process or remanufacture recovered materials in the state. Business information can be accessed by searching for the business name or the type of materials to be recycled.

Among the organizations listed on the directory is Habitat for Humanity's ReStore on Old U.S. 421 South in Boone. According to Jennifer Ramey, administrative assistant for Watauga Habitat, the nonprofit accepts building materials, electric supplies, doors, windows, plumbing supplies, household items, appliances and furniture for resale to the public at the ReStore.

Since 2010, the Watauga County ReStore has sold 3.3 million pounds of material. Proceeds are used to help build homes for low-income families.

"It has grown every year," Ramey said, noting that in 2012 the ReStore sold 880,557 pounds of material, and as of Monday, 854,855 pounds had already been sold in 2013.

In October 2012, Randall Baisden opened High Country Recycling on U.S. 321/421 in Vilas, located near Skateworld.

High Country Recycling purchases steel materials, non-ferrous metals such as copper, brass and aluminum, whole vehicles and vehicle parts.

The business then separates the materials, removes solder from joints in the metal and sells the products in quantity. Baisden said he only sells materials to American companies.

After operating a scrap yard in Asheboro, Baisden -- who grew up in a Banner Elk orphanage -- sold it because his family wanted to move to the High Country. Baisden recently bought the Asheboro business back, however.

"With the economy the way it's been, everybody needs as much money as they can get nowadays," Baisden said.

The growth of private recycling businesses hasn't been positive for everyone, however. Earlier this year, Watauga county recycling coordinator Lisa Doty reported to the Watauga County Commissioners that the weight of scrap materials collected by the county had been cut in half since High Country Recycling opened. The county receives revenue from sold scrap materials.

To access the N.C. Recycling Markets Directory, visit

DENR also publishes NC WasteTrader and NC BiomassTrader, which are online marketplaces for discarded or surplus materials and products and biomass materials. Visit or