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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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Richmond Kiwanis Foundation donates $50,000 toward playrooms at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU 

The age-appropriate playrooms will be located throughout the 16-story hospital and can be used to help children feel safe and at ease while at the hospital and to remain connected with their home life through play. 

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Richmond Kiwanis Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Kiwanis Club of Richmond, has announced a donation of $50,000 to support the playrooms that will be a part of the Wonder Tower, the new inpatient pediatric hospital at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

The age-appropriate playrooms will be located throughout the 16-story hospital and can be used to help children feel safe and at ease while at the hospital and to remain connected with their home life through play.

“We’re here to support the children in the community, especially when they need us most,” said Bruce Tyler, Kiwanis Club of Richmond president. “Children in health care environments need areas where they can be children. Playing, having fun and using their imaginations while they receive care at CHoR.”

The Kiwanis Club of Richmond’s mission is to serve the children of Richmond and the world. That focus has led Richmond Kiwanians to be key drivers for progress in the community in its century of service to children. For over 100 years, Kiwanis and CHoR have remained closely connected and support has included hosting the beloved holiday party for the children at CHoR’s Brook Road Campus each year, providing properly fitted bike helmets to second graders in Richmond Public Schools and supporting a family lounge adjacent to the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.

“Our relationship with the Kiwanis Club of Richmond has stood the test of time and we’re so grateful for their ongoing support,” said Lauren Moore, President and CEO of Children’s Hospital Foundation. “This group is wholeheartedly in it for the kids and Richmond is fortunate to have such a thriving, generous Kiwanis chapter doing so much good for the community.”

This $50,000 gift is part of the Foundation’s annual grant program, where organizations whose missions align with Kiwanis are invited to apply for fundings for programs that benefit children in the Richmond area, particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds.  In 2022, Kiwanis Richmond has awarded more than $60,000 to a diverse array of Richmond-area nonprofits.

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Library of Virginia helps Billy Porter discover his family history on July 10th episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?”

The genealogy TV show has filmed segments at the Library of Virginia in previous seasons for episodes featuring actors Hilary Duff, Bill Paxton, and Blair Underwood.

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Watch for Richmond and the Library of Virginia during the July 10 season opener of the genealogy TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?,” now back on NBC.

While exploring his Virginia roots in the episode, featured celebrity Billy Porter—the award-winning actor, singer, Broadway star, and author—traveled to Richmond on his family history quest and visited the Library of Virginia to see 19th-century records from the collections relating to his ancestors.

The genealogy TV show has filmed segments at the Library of Virginia in previous seasons for episodes featuring actors Hilary Duff, Bill Paxton, and Blair Underwood.

The episode premieres Sunday, July 10th at 7:00 PM on NBC. Episodes will stream on Peacock the following day.

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PHOTOS: Green infrastructure projects completed at three Richmond Public Library branches

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Richmond Public Library, City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities/RVAH2O, Four Winds Design, and the James River Association is celebrating the completion of green infrastructure projects that manage stormwater at three Richmond Public Library branches.

Implementation of green infrastructure plans for Broad Rock Branch, North Avenue Branch, and West End Branch, all approved by the City of Richmond’s Urban Design Committee and Planning Commission, occurred this spring. Each of the three projects features bioretention basins that capture and absorb stormwater runoff from library buildings and grounds, thereby reducing the amount of stormwater pollution entering the James River and its tributaries.

“After spending a few years securing funding for the Greening Richmond Public Libraries initiative and developing green infrastructure plans with community input for Broad Rock Branch, North Avenue Branch, and West End Branch, Richmond Public Library is thrilled to celebrate the completion of these projects,” said Scott Firestine, Director of Richmond Public Library. “These projects are the result of collaboration with committed partners like the James River Association and Four Winds Design and interdepartmental cooperation within City Hall. We’ve reimagined how library campuses can serve the city, from adding Bike Share stations and outdoor reading benches to new methods of landscape maintenance.”

Harbor Dredge & Dock was selected as the contractor to implement the three projects and volunteer assistance was used to install trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses. A total of 173 trees and shrubs were planted alongside hundreds of perennials and grasses at the three library branches to help manage stormwater and green library grounds. The landscapes were designed to be habitats for pollinators and are complete with interpretive signs for visitors and expanded water-wise irrigation systems. As the trees and shrubs grow, they will help reduce the amount of stormwater runoff leaving library grounds and expand Richmond’s tree canopy. The Richmond Public Library Foundation funded new outdoor seating areas featuring pervious pavers that reduce stormwater runoff near the main entrance at Broad Rock Branch.

“It really is remarkable what public-private collaboration can achieve,” said Justin Doyle, Director of Community Conservation with the James River Association. “My James River Association colleagues and I are grateful for Richmond Public Library’s commitment to the Greening Richmond Public Libraries initiative and their willingness to install green infrastructure on library grounds to reduce stormwater runoff. We are excited to conduct community engagement activities at East End Branch this month and work toward developing a community-supported green infrastructure plan for the library.”

Community engagement activities including a public meeting and rain barrel workshop are scheduled for East End Branch Library this month. A questionnaire available at the library and online is also being used to gather input from library users and residents of Richmond’s East End. A public meeting will be held at the library on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, at 5:00 pm. Attendees will be asked to share thoughts on outdoor spaces at the library and input on where green infrastructure should be installed around the library. On Tuesday, June 21, 2022, the James River Association is partnering with Richmond Public Library and the Department of Public Utilities/RVAH2O to hold a rain barrel workshop at the library. During this workshop, participants will learn how to assemble, install, and use rain barrels to harvest rainwater at home. Participants will also learn about the benefits of native plants and receive a native perennial to plant at home.

Stormwater pollution poses one of the biggest threats to the health of the James River by carrying pollution to its tributaries and green infrastructure helps reduce polluted stormwater runoff. The Greening Richmond Public Libraries initiative, a collaboration between Richmond Public Library, City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities/RVAH2O, JRA, and Four Winds Design, launched in 2019 with the implementation of a green infrastructure plan at Westover Hills Branch Library. Since then, the partners have worked together to engage library users and stakeholders in planning and design processes that resulted in the implementation of green infrastructure plans at Broad Rock Branch Library, North Avenue Branch Library, and West End Branch Library.

The primary goal of these plans is to manage stormwater on library grounds through the installation of green infrastructure. The initiative is funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) under a 319 grant to the James River Association. Additional support is provided by Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Altria, City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities/RVAH2O, James River Association, Richmond Public Library, Richmond Public Library Foundation, and Virginia Department of Forestry.

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We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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