Virginia recycling numbers up despite COVID-19 challenges
Based on information from all 71 of the state’s Solid Waste Planning Units, the report shows a calculated recycling rate of 45.5 percent, which marks a solid increase from 2019’s 43.2 percent, despite recycling challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of recycling markets in certain regions.
Virginia’s recycling target rate for local governments is 25 percent and 15 percent for smaller localities.
The recycling rate reports submitted to DEQ this year represent 324 Virginia localities. A breakdown of the data shows that 3.9 million tons of principal recyclable materials were recycled, including paper, metal, plastic, glass, commingled materials, yard waste, waste wood, textiles, waste tires, used oil, used oil filters, used antifreeze, inoperative automobiles, batteries and electronics.
Several success stories were also highlighted in this year’s report. In Arlington County, five drop-off stations were established solely for glass recycling to eliminate cross contamination with other materials that often occurs at residential curbside pickups. This resulted in the successful recycling of over 1,429 tons of clean glass. Using the previous single-stream system, 43.5 percent of that glass would have instead been used as landfill daily cover.
Similarly, the City of Alexandria’s Recycle Right Alexandria campaign resulted in a glass contamination decrease from 15 to 10 percent. The initiative, launched in 2019, has led to the successful recycling of over five million pounds of glass that were diverted from landfills. The city also launched a web application that directs residents to recycling information on specific items – such as rechargeable batteries, plastic bags and clothing – to deliver the most accurate information as recycling markets change.
“Since 2000, DEQ has been working with localities on recycling best practices that have resulted in Virginia meeting or exceeding our mandated rates,” said DEQ Director of Land Protection and Revitalization Division Kathryn Perszyk. “We continue to encourage Virginians to adopt the three ‘Rs’ – reduce, reuse and recycle – to divert waste from landfills and keep our recycling rates high.”
For more information about recycling in Virginia, as well as the full DEQ 2020 Virginia Annual Recycling Summary Report, visit DEQ’s website.