While Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is celebrating a modest gain in the amount of trash that’s being recycled statewide, in Botetourt County it remains difficult to meet even the minimum recycling percentage established by the state several years ago.
According to the DEQ’s Virginia 2017 Recycling Summary Report that’s based on data from 117 local governments across the Commonwealth, the state recycling rate is 42.8 percent, which continues the positive trend in Virginia’s recycling efforts.
In Botetourt, the recycling rate actually dropped slightly from 2016 to 2017, from 18.1 percent to 17.3 percent— that despite the voluntary curbside recycling program instituted by the county among the franchised trash haulers.
That voluntary program became a required program when a new franchise hauling contract went into effect in January of this year.
Still, Botetourt officials are concerned that changes to the types of plastic that are now being accepted for recycling may push down the percentage again in 2018.
Earlier this year, the county began accepting only Type 1 and Type 2 plastics because of changes in the recycling market. Recycling and Disposal Solutions (RDS) that accepts recyclables in the Roanoke and New River Valleys said higher standards had to be implemented to accommodate that market change.
While Botetourt’s recycling rate declined, so did the amount of trash that was collected from 2016 to 2017. In 2017, the DEQ report said Botetourt generated 18,825 tons of trash. In 2017, that fell to 16,632 tons. Both were down from the 20,895 tons of trash reported in 2015.
The report said Botetourt recycled 2,875 tons of trash in 2017, 3,407 tons in 2016 and 4,012 tons in 2015.
Residential and small business recycling accounted for 1,772.69 tons of recyclables in 2017. Another 1,103 tons is attributed to commercial and industrial recycling.
While the county’s overall recycling rate is down, the volunteer curbside recycling program has steadily increased among three franchise haulers.
Kessler Garbage Service, which serves the Troutville and Cloverdale areas, has had the largest increase in recycled tonnage, according to the county’s Solid Waste Division Manager Greg Hannah, followed by Community Sanitation in the Blue Ridge area (now part of the County Waste).
Kessler saw a 34 percent increase in recycling from 2016 to 2017 and a 60 percent increase from 2015. In 2016, the company picked up 46.77 tons of recyclables and in 2017 it handled 62.68 tons.
Community Sanitation saw a 31.5 percent increase in recyclables from 2015 to 2017. That company recycled 79.6 tons of trash in 2017.
Kelley’s Garbage Collection Service has picked up the most recyclables, 128.96 tons in 2017— an increase of 15.8 percent from 2016 and up 17.2 percent from 2015.
While it will be after the first of the year before the county has a count on 2018 recycling, Hannah believes the changes in what plastics are accepted will have an impact.
Botetourt’s 17.3 percent recycling in 2017 still meets the state’s goal for localities with fewer than 100,000 population— and Botetourt’s reporting to the DEQ is voluntary since its population falls under the population requirement for mandatory reporting.
Communities with fewer than 100,000 population are expected to recycle at least 15 percent of their trash, and among those size communities that do report, Botetourt has one of the lowest rates.
The curbside recycling and drop off centers account for 1,772.69 tons of recycled material in 2017.
Neighboring Bedford recycled 42.5 percent of its trash in 2017, Craig County recycled 19.7 percent, Roanoke City 29.1 percent, Salem City 35.5 percent and the Town of Vinton reported recycling 64 percent of its trash.
Roanoke County, Rockbridge/Lexington/Buena Vista and Alleghany County were among the 33 jurisdictions that did not report their recycling efforts.
While Botetourt’s franchised trash haulers are now required to provide curbside recycling pickup, the county still relies on the recycling centers each of the county’s elementary schools, Lord Botetourt High School and the Convenience Center at the county landfill, which also accepts electronics, large appliances, tires, oil, antifreeze and car batteries.
Statewide, DEQ Land Protection and Renewal Division Director Justin Williams said, “The trend for Virginia continues to move in a steady, positive direction/ For example, four years ago the rate was 41 percent, which was well above the state mandated rate of 25 percent. Today, we have nine local planning units reporting amounts that are near 50 percent or higher.”
More than 100 Virginia cities, counties and towns, which are organized into 17 solid waste planning units, are required by law to achieve and maintain a minimum rate of 25 percent. For calendar year 2017, the planning units reported the disposal of more than four tons of municipal solid waste and nearly 3.6 million tons of recycled materials. Recycled materials included 2.6 million tons of recyclables such as paper and glass and nearly 1 million tons of other types of waste.
According to the DEQ report, the agency works closely with local and regional litter prevention and recycling programs to maintain mandated recycling rates. DEQ’s Office of Pollution Prevention and the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program also work directly with businesses and agencies to encourage recycling and source reduction statewide.
For more information, visit www.DEQ.Virginia.gov.