Is recycling over in Greene County?

A resident recycles at the Greene County Solid Waste Facility.

For almost three decades, residents have been able to recycle numerous items at the Greene County Solid Waste Facility in Ruckersville. However, that may be a thing of the past—at least for plastic, glass and junk mail. 

Allen Morris, director of operations for the landfill, said the county is considering a stop to those recycling efforts after months of losing money.

“It’s just terrible,” Morris said. “I have looked at this year after year after year; it’s gotten to the place where I don’t know if I can do it anymore.”

Residents were shocked to learn of the plan to end recycling efforts as of Aug. 1, but the county has pushed that date back to Sept. 1 after the Greene County Board of Supervisors have a chance to review it in an August meeting, according to Greene County Administrator Mark Taylor.

“I love to recycle; I’m trained to recycle,” said Trish McGuire, who lives on a street that is not served by trash or recycling service. “We have been very grateful and very proud that Greene County has offered all this recycling up here in Greene. We’ve been really proud of this. When I pulled up earlier in the week and saw the notice effective Aug 1 … I had a lot of questions.”

McGuire said her family fills about a bread bag’s worth of trash per week, so it’s not even cost-effective to get trash service to her home even if it allowed recycling.

“The rest is recycling,” she said. “I’ve been teaching the grandchildren that this is what we do. I’m very disappointed.”

McGuire was not alone

“I was very sorry to learn about the cutbacks at the recycle center,” said Pat Temples. “I go every 10 days to recycle a variety of things into nine of the bins they have there. The improvements to the center a few years ago have made it safe and easy to recycle. It made me feel like a good citizen to know plastics, glass and junk mail are not going into the landfill. I wish there was a solution to this problem for Greene County.”

However, it’s not something that only Greene is struggling with. With the cost of recycling skyrocketing across the United States and lower international demand, many localities in Virginia are rethinking their recycling operations.

Madison County suspended its recycling program for plastics, textiles, electronics, used oil and batteries on July 1, hoping to find a cost-effective way to offer it. They were slated to begin again Aug. 1.

The cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton and Waynesboro and the counties of Rockingham and Augusta made changes to recycling for plastics and glass in the spring after Sonoco Recycling left the Fishersville area.

Albemarle County’s McIntire Recycling Center also made a change, only accepting plastics marked #1 or #2 for recycling.

“I went to every surrounding county,” he said.

In every monthly report to the Board of Supervisors since August 2018, Morris noted the low yield of some recyclables and even the inability to move others.

“We’ve been eating [the cost],” Morris said. “It’s just too much. Budgets are tight.”

During the fiscal year 2019 budget cycle, numerous residents spoke to the Board of Supervisors about their concerns that the solid waste facility was being subsidized by the county to the tune of $250,000 instead of being self-sufficient. After a rise in commercial fees in July 2018. The landfill is no longer subsidized.

McGuire said she thinks education should be part of the solution—including how to decide what to purchase in the first place.

“You do see people are contaminating the bins,” she said of those items not fully washed clean. “When you get serious about trying to reduce plastic you realize everything is plastic and it can be overwhelming. You have to do it in baby steps.”

Morris said he isn’t sure if recycling is something that is going to go away permanently, but it will probably have to be subsidized by government—local, state or federal.

“I don’t think it’s over. I think it depends on what China’s going to do and on the federal government,” he said. “If everyone here hollers, they’ll do something—maybe allocate money for it or something. It’s got to be up there. We just can’t keep going on the way we are.”

This change will not affect Time Disposal customers as those who participate in the curbside recycling program as those items are taken to van der Linde Recycling in Fluvanna County.

As of Sept. 1, Greene County will no longer accept any plastic, junk mail, phonebooks, magazines or any glass unless the supervisors vote to keep it operating.

Newspapers, tin cans, aluminum and corrugated cardboard will still be accepted at no cost. The supervisors have not set the meeting date for the topic as of press time. Watch the county website for the board agendas at greenecountyva.gov.

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