Changes coming to Staunton recycling program

staunton virginiaStarting April 1, the Staunton recycling program will undergo some significant changes.

The area’s sole recycling processor, Sonoco Recycling of Fishersville, has informed the City of Staunton—and neighboring localities Waynesboro and Augusta County—that it will no longer accept plastic and glass.

As a result, the City must adjust its recycling program beginning April 1.

Staunton residents should prepare for the following changes:

  • The City will no longer provide curbside collection of plastic of any sort.
  • The City will continue to collect glass curbside; however, it will be crushed and beneficially utilized as refuse cover at the Augusta Regional Landfill.

“We recognize that these changes are unfavorable and will be a challenge for our residents who are committed to being good stewards of the environment,” said City Manager Steve Owen. “They also don’t align with the longstanding values of our city to encourage and support sustainability. We’re experiencing this predicament along with many localities across the nation. The recycling industry is failing and, in turn, forcing recycling processors like Sonoco to either pass along significantly increased costs to us or eliminate the collection of certain recyclable goods. We’re now in the unfortunate position of having to make substantial and undesirable changes to our recycling program.”

In February, City Council directed staff to close the recycling center at Gypsy Hill Park, which will occur by the end of the month. The City is closing the park recycling center due to skyrocketing costs to rent collection containers and have them emptied throughout each month. Sonoco implemented a new rate structure last August, resulting in additional annual charges to the City of about $20,000 to support the recycling center.

Residents who relied on the recycling center are encouraged to drop items in recycling containers at the regional landfill instead, keeping in mind that plastic will no longer be accepted for recycling there as well.

“City staff is in the process of examining alternative recycling solutions that provide opportunities for residents to recycle as much as possible at as minimal a cost as possible,” Owen said. “In the meantime, if market conditions improve, and our full recycling program again becomes sustainable, we’re prepared to reevaluate our options and broaden the program.”

Why is Recycling Becoming Expensive and Challenging?

In case you haven’t heard, the recycling industry is in a tailspin.

The reason? In a nutshell, China no longer wants America’s trash. Much of the United States’ reclaimed waste is shipped overseas and, until recently, was mostly accepted by China. But China put new restrictions on imported waste last year, which have led to a continuous decline in demand.

On top of China’s rejection of recyclable materials, a few other factors have contributed to the weakening of the recycling industry:

  • low oil prices have made it cheaper to produce new plastic bottles, so manufacturers have less incentive to use reclaimed plastic;
  • packaging producers have been able to make cans and bottles thinner, resulting in significantly lower need for raw materials;
  • circulation of print newspaper has plummeted, so the recycling industry has lost its primary customer for reclaimed paper fiber and their primary source of incoming recyclable material; and
  • there is now very little demand for recycled glass.

All of these factors have resulted in a stressed recycling market that is leaving cities nationwide in a dilemma. Now, leaders in localities across the country are left to figure out if they can afford to salvage their recycling programs or find alternative solutions.

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