Prince William County increased its recycling rate to 38.2% in 2019, nearly a 5% increase from 2018 and the county’s biggest increase since 2016, county officials said.
Prince William is one of 17 solid waste planning districts in the state required to annually report recycling information to the state Department of Environmental Quality. Prince William has exceeded its mandated 25% recycling rate every year since the mandatory rates took effect in the early 1990s.
The recycling rate is a measure of the materials diverted for reuse, recycling, or composting from the waste stream compared to materials that go into the trash. Regular trash is buried in the county’s landfill on Dumfries Road or combusted at the Fairfax County I-95 Energy/Resource Recovery Facility in Lorton. Items diverted for recycling and composting are sorted, processed, and converted into materials that can be returned to commercial enterprise.
Waste import restrictions imposed by China and other countries in early 2018 had a significant effect on the processing of recyclables worldwide. To reduce the burden on local haulers and processors, the county implemented new recycling guidelines to help reduce contamination and limit collected material to items that are marketable.
In March 2019, Prince William County asked residents to only recycle #1 and #2 plastic bottles, jugs and jars, and to no longer put glass in the regular recycling bin. Residents can bring glass containers to the Prince William County Landfill or Balls Ford Road Compost Facility’s purple bins, which are designated for glass recycling. Glass can also be placed in regular household trash, along with any plastics numbered #3-#7.
Scott MacDonald, the county’s recycling manager noted, “While the recycling rate saw a significant increase, this increase had more to do with declines in the amount of trash received versus increases in actual recycling activity in the county. Recycling has essentially been flat for the past decade.”
One reason, he added, is that Prince William does not require source-separation of yard waste, which makes up about 15% of the material going into the landfill.
“We need to get that yard waste out of our landfill and divert it to the compost facility at Balls Ford Road, where it can be used to make compost and other soil-amendment products,” MacDonald said.
The Balls Ford Road compost facility was recently expanded and now has capacity to compost yard waste. The county hopes to initiate a seasonal yard waste collection program to take effect next fall.