Trash isn’t something to dump — it’s something to cash in. Local officials and residents are being challenged to see the economic value in a creative waste management plan.

Speakers at a League of Women Voters of the Charlottesville Area luncheon Tuesday advocated for a collaborative regional effort on trash and recycling.

“We need to talk about privatization,” said John Martin, a retired attorney and former board member of the Albemarle County Service Authority. “Government has to set the goals and the policies, and monitor the results and make corrections.”

The future of trash is a hot topic for Albemarle County, where officials are currently deciding where to place a trash and recycling convenience center. The decision has caused much debate and resident involvement.

“This issue with the local convenience center is a great example of failure,” said Dr. Michael Weber, who lives nearby the Ivy landfill. “At the end of the day, if you don’t know where you’re going, any plan will do.”

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has delayed making a final decision about the convenience center by 18 months, thus buying time at a cost of about $375,000 to continue current services with the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority at the Ivy facility.

“The Supreme Court of the United States said that waste management is a core function of the government,” Martin said.

Martin called on officials to take responsibility for the issue, but in a collaborative effort including the private and public sectors, and the city and county governments.

“The private sector has a very important role to play in solid waste management,” Martin said.

Martin referenced Austin, Texas’s 2040 waste management goal as good example and source of inspiration for the region. Austin’s goal is for zero-waste by the year 2040.

“Very important to their program is entrepreneurship,” Martin said. “They are developing interest in the private sector.”

“Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. And Rethink,” said Teri Kent, founder of Better World Betty and the second speaker at the meeting.

“[Wild Wing Cafe] saves about $1,600 a year by increasing their recycling 79 percent,” Kent said.

Kent and Martin both applauded Austin’s ability to take advantage of trash in their zero-waste resource recovery plan. They said they believe in this region’s ability to do something similar.

“There are 12 communities approving a 30-year plan for zero-waste,” said Kent.

There was no doubt in Martin’s mind that the officials are capable of accomplishing and planning out an effective solid waste management plan.

“We have an outstanding 50-year water supply plan,” Martin said. “The public officials here today were responsible for the outstanding plan we have.”

Several audience members contributed their own ideas.

Rick Parrish, an attorney with the Charlottesville-based Southern Environmental Law Center, suggested the county check out the Institute for Local Self Reliance as a resource.

“They have been studying these topics for about 40 years now,” Parrish said.

Albemarle Supervisor Liz Palmer encouraged residents to speak up.

“If anyone is interested [in composting], lobby your supervisor,” Palmer said. “There are many of us in the county wanting to do more recycling.”

“We need to make a paradigm shift away from trash as a nuisance, but as a resource we can take advantage of,” Martin said.