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.
Mayor Requests People Follow Social Distancing Rules or Parks Could Close
Folks are encouraged to enjoy the outdoors but do so in a responsible manner.
The rules are pretty basic. Don’t hang out in groups larger than 10 and maintain a distance of six feet from other people. These simple steps are needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As evidenced by these photos, people have not been following these rules.
The Mayor spoke to the press on Tuesday afternoon and reiterated these rules and urged residents to follow these rules.
Mayor Stoney stated, “If folks are at Texas Beach with a bunch of PBRs, then obviously we’re going to provide some guidance that they should disperse. That’s going to be happening throughout the city.” Stoney also pointed to sports such as basketball, soccer, and pickleball must cease since social distancing is impossible while engaging in such activity.
For now, police are going to be upping patrols and asking groups to disperse. If the problem persists the city will consider closing down the parks and taking other additional measures.
Richmond Police Officer Tests Positive for COVID-19
Preliminary investigation by RCHD and RPD has not determined any potential for close contact with Richmond residents during this time period.
Press Release from RPD:
The City of Richmond today is reporting its first known case of an employee testing positive for COVID-19.
The affected employee is a female officer in the Richmond Police Department, who traveled to New York before the onset of her illness.
According to the Richmond City Health District, the officer, who is in her 40s, is now at home in isolation and is in stable condition.
Another co-worker who had been in close contact with the officer is under self-quarantine and is self-monitoring for symptoms.
Preliminary investigation by RCHD and RPD has not determined any potential for close contact with Richmond residents during this time period. However, RCHD and the RPD are reviewing and investigating any possible additional close contacts the officer may have had during the performance of her duties.
“My first concern is for her and her family and the extended family of her co-workers,” said Police Chief William Smith. “We have taken precautions to limit exposure to our staff and to the community we serve. It is extremely important that we all continue to do our part in controlling the spread of the virus through the recommended protocols.”
“Because we are seeing significant community spread it is not surprising to have a documented occurrence in the government workforce,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Director of the Richmond City Health District, which serves the City of Richmond and Henrico County. “We continue to encourage members of our community to take every precaution to limit their potential exposure to COVID-19 to mitigate its impact on the residents of our region.”
“I truly appreciate the work that first responders do on the frontlines to keep our community safe during these uncertain times,” said Mayor Levar M. Stoney. “We must do our part as well. We are safer and stronger at home.”
Governor Northam Closes Schools, Recreation Businesses, and Limits Restaurants to To-Go/Carryout
The school closures announcement leaves more questions than answers. Expect school districts to roll ou their plan in the coming weeks.
During Governor Northam’s daily press conference he announced sweeping new measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.
- Virginia schools will be closed for the rest of the year. This includes both public and private schools.
- All recreation businesses such as bowling alleys, theaters, etc., are ordered closed.
- Restaurants my no longer offer any dine-in services. All food must be either delivered or offered t0-go. Social distancing and no more than 10 people will be allowed at a time.
- Breweries and wineries fall into the same category as restaurants. No tasting room, to-go only.
- Non-essential businesses may remain open but must have 10 or fewer people at a time. Businesses such as hair salons or tattoo parlors are to be closed due to how close the customer and employees must be due to the nature of the service being offered.
- Essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and others should adhere to the no more than 10 people at a time and maintain a six-foot cushion between people.
More information will be posted as it becomes available.