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A $500,000 state grant to be used to study what North Carolinians are tossing into landfills could go unused if private matching funds aren't found.

The General Assembly approved the grant last year in an effort to develop a statewide plan for the management of solid wastes. Legislators anticipated that businesses involved - such as restaurants, soft-drink bottlers, beer producers, merchants and others - would help fund the study.So far only one $500 contribution has been made.

State officials and legislators say that if matching funds aren't received by the April 30 deadline, the state might have to postpone the study. If fully funded, $1 million would be available for the study, known as a waste stream analysis.

``At this point, without substantial matching funds, we will have to go back to the legislature and see if we can find some other funding source,' said Edythe M. McKinney, assistant secretary for environmental protection in the state Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources. ``I do not believe we can go forward without matching funds from the private sector, according to the way the legislation is written.'

The study would examine what types of solid wastes are going into the state's 120 landfills. Currently, the state is seeking bids from private contractors to conduct the study and to develop a solid-waste management plan.

Spokesmen for several industry and business groups said they would be willing to consider helping with the study. One reason for the lack of funding, they said, is that they had not been contacted formally about participation.

McKinney said she had mailed a letter to businesses inviting them to a Jan. 30 meeting to discuss funding the study.

William E. Holman, a lobbyist for environmental groups, said that he was concerned that those opposing the study could block it by refusing to come up with their share of the costs.

``I believe that if industry doesn't come up with the $500,000 it is going to hurt their credibility,' he said. ``The concept for the detailed waste study, as I recall, was pushed by industry because they were arguing that it was premature for the General Assembly to levy taxes on disposed goods or ban disposed goods. It would be my recollection that the study was a delaying tactic and now it appears that the study is going to be delayed.'

T. Jerry Williams, executive vice president of the N.C. Restaurant Association, said that his group was willing to assist, but that he did not think a $1 million study was necessary.

``I don't think the $500,000 match is necessary, but whatever amount is necessary will be reached,' he said. ``I think a solid-waste stream analysis can probably be done for $300,000 or less.'

So far, Wastek of Pittsboro is the only contributor. The company manages solid-waste composts, recycling debris from yards and other waste materials that can be used to produce mulches and fertilizers.

``I really don't have any idea why nobody else is interested,' said T.H. Glendinning, president of the company.


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