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Charlotte Leaders, Organizations Want To Turn Waste Into Jobs

Cole del Charco
Greenhouses at Johnson C. Smith University were the stage for the announcement of the new plan because of the school’s goal of eliminating landfill waste in Charlotte.";


The City of Charlotte unveiled an initiative Thursday called "Circular Charlotte" with the idea that eliminating waste can also help create jobs.

The project is a combined effort between the city and the environmental non-profit Envision Charlotte.

Credit Cole del Charco / WFAE
The planners of Circular Charlotte: Victoria Johnson, Director of Solid Waste Services, left, City Manager Marcus Jones, middle, and Amy Aussieker, Executive Director of Envision Charlotte.

City Manager Marcus Jones said the idea for the initiative came after a company called Metabolic did a study finding the city only diverts 11 percent of waste from landfills. Adding to the motivation was the fact that many European countries have skipped over recycling, Jones said.

“It’s really trying to divert materials from the landfill, but it’s not just an environmental issue,” Jones said. “It’s also an economic issue.”

There were displays to show the kinds of initiatives a circular economy — that’s an economy with zero waste — could bring. Some of the ideas included rewards for recycling, reusing fibers from old clothing, growing larvae to feed livestock, an aquaphonics greenhouse and an innovation barn.

The innovation barn is the idea the city’s starting with — and giving $2 million to. The city says it’ll open next August.

The barn will be a zero-waste space to host events, complete with a restaurant, offices and room for entrepreneurs to create products that are focused on reusing waste.

“We will put out calls of action,” Amy Aussieker, with Envision Charlotte, said. “We have this kind of material from the landfill, we have this space. Come in and design the product around it.”


Aussieker said focusing on a circular economy could lead to hundreds of sustainable jobs for Charlotteans.

Cole del Charco is a journalist, writer and radio producer from Hickory, North Carolina.