RECYCLING RATES.jpg

RICHMOND — Virginia recycled almost half of its trash last year, setting a record despite China’s ban on importing plastic and other solid waste.

The statewide recycling rate in 2018 was 46% — up 3 percentage points from the previous year, according to data released this month by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The data showed that:

Prince William County’s percent of trash recycled was at 35%, compared to the 50% recycle rate in Fairfax and Arlington counties and the 39% recycle rate in Stafford County and Fredericksburg. Loudoun County’s recycle rate was at 34%.

The numbers represent the percentage of municipal solid waste that is sent for recycling. Local governments also get credit for activities such as programs to reduce the amount of trash generated.

Several factors affect an area’s recycling rate. They include population, population density, location of recycling facilities and funding.

49056240253_d0ba897138_o.jpg

By April 30 each year, the local governments and regional planning units that oversee recycling collect their data and submit a report to the Department of Environmental Quality. DEQ reviews the information and then calculates an overall recycling rate for the state.

“DEQ works with businesses and localities and environmental groups to promote environmental awareness through recycling,” said Leslie Beckwith, the agency’s director of financial responsibility and waste management programs.

The statewide recycling rate was 44% in 2015. It dropped to 43% in 2016 and 2017 before jumping to 46% last year.

The increase came despite an unstable market for various types of trash to be recycled — especially China’s decision to stop accepting solid waste.

“China’s revisions in recycling material acceptance is having a big impact on the recycling market,” Beckwith said.

As a result, DEQ has asked localities and planning units to identify any changes or challenges regarding their recycling efforts when they submit their 2019 reports.

One change is that many localities have dropped recycling glass because it is hard to find a market for that product. That is why DEQ is asking Virginians to minimize their use of glass.

“Citizens should try to generate less waste, like purchasing products with the least amount of packaging and those that are readily recyclable, such as aluminum cans vs. glass bottles,” said Anissa Rafeh, the department’s communications coordinator.

Glass can be problematic to recycle for several reasons, said Joe Romuno, director of national accounts for an environmental consulting firm called Great Forest Sustainability Solutions.

“Broken glass can contaminate other recyclables like paper and cardboard, lowering their value,” Romuno said. Moreover, broken glass can be a safety hazard to workers and can damage machines at recycling facilities.

Also, glass must be sorted by color in order to reprocess for recycling. “Glass is difficult to sort when broken, and if broken down too finely, it may become too difficult to reprocess,” Romuno said.

Four localities in Northern Virginia have teamed up to tackle the challenge of glass recycling.

The city of Alexandria and the counties of Fairfax, Arlington Prince William have joined forces to collect source-separated glass in purple bins for better recovery. The glass is then crushed at Fairfax County’s Glass Processing Center to produce sand and gravel that can be used in construction and landscaping projects.

DEQ is also keeping an eye on new technologies to improve Virginia’s recycling efforts. For example, the agency was on hand when the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority announced it was deploying 2,000 recycling bins from an Israeli company called UBQ.

The bins are made with a thermoplastic created from household waste that would normally end up in a landfill, including banana peels, chicken bones, plastics and old pizza boxes.

(1) comment

MJMoonwalker

This is great. Maybe the world won't end in 12 years if we get to 100%.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.