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New Data: Virginians are recycling more of their trash than ever

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.

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By Eric Everington

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 week by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The data showed that:

  • The Central Virginia Waste Management Authority, which includes Richmond and surrounding localities, had the highest recycling rate in the commonwealth — 59%.
  • The Virginia Peninsulas Public Service Authority, which includes Hampton, Poquoson and Williamsburg and nearby counties, had the lowest rate — 29%.
  • The city of Newport News had the biggest improvement in recycling in recent years. Its rate jumped from 38% in 2016 to 57% last year.

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.

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.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Happy Holidays from RVAHub

Thanks for supporting us and enjoy the holiday. We’re taking a few days off and will see you in the new year.

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Weekend Radar: Parade, Illumination, Soul Santa, Yuletide Monsters

We’re leaning heavily into the Christmas spirit this weekend with our picks.

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On the Radar

Christmas Parade – I’d end up on the naughty list if I didn’t include this one. Not much else to say beyond the title. It’s a big parade with all the parade things, bands, floats, large floating things, lots of people you don’t know waving at you from cars, stormtroopers, and intensely smiling people. The weather looks perfect.

  • Downtown Richmond | Route starts Science Museum of Virginia to the Richmond Coliseum on Broad | Dec 4, Parade Start 10 AM | Free | Website

Grand Illumination – They turn on the city’s holiday lights. You can enjoy the party downtown for the live show and spend the evening with news anchors Deanna Allbrittin and Eric Phillips, meteorologists Matt DiNardo and John Bernier and sports anchor Natalie Kalibat. DJ Lonnie B will be on hand to keep the music going and Mayor Levar Stoney will flip the switch and turn on the city’s holiday lights.

  • Kanawha Plaza | 8th and Canal Streets | Dec 3rd, Starts at 5 PM lights on 6 PM | Free | FB Event

Under the Radar

Soul Santa – Soul Santa is coming to town, specifically the Black History Museum and Cultural Center.  “As we continue to do our best to keep everyone safe, Soul Santa will visit virtually again this year. Our special guest is NBC12’s Jasmine Turner. Jasmine will interview Soul Santa on the Soul Santa Network (SSN) and he will be joined by some of his special friends for fun activities. Registration is now open so sign up and tune in! Every child who registers will receive a Christmas card in the mail from the big man himself!”

  • Virtual | Dec 4th & Dec 11th, 10 AM & 11 AM | Free | Register Here

Krampusnacht “Yuletide Monsters” – A a jam-packed evening full of Krampus themed art from local artists, burlesque performances, live music, DJs, libation specials, a toy drive, and more.

  • Gallery 5 | 200 W. Marshall Street | Dec 3rd, 5-11 PM | Free | FB Event

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Photos: All the Saints Theater Company Oregon Hill Halloween Parade

The theme of this year’s All the Saints Halloween Parade was “World on Fire Halloween Parade: A Funeral March for Billionaires and Beyond!”

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If you enjoyed the parade you can make a donation here to insure that All the Saints Theater Company can continue their efforts not just with this parade but all year round.

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