Cheaper to dump in a landfill

Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2019

By Diana McFarland


It now costs more to recycle than to take the material to a landfill, but Isle of Wight County still plans to continue the service.

Isle of Wight Solid Waste Manager Michael Etheridge told the Board of Supervisors Thursday that it costs $54,000 to recycle 840 tons this year, but would cost $47,880 to take the same amount to the landfill. 

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The cost to recycle has gone up $45,600 since last year and that is due, in part, to China tightening the market, said Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton. 

Keaton said that Etheridge’s presentation at the Thursday worksession was to let the Board know what is going on and to keep the issue on the “front burner.” {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Keaton said China has stopped taking a good deal of the material, and what they take needs to be pristine. 

One of the biggest issues is contamination, especially with single stream recycling, said Etheridge. 

Single stream is where all types of recyclables — glass, plastic, paper — are mixed together in one container. Single stream has made it easier for folks to recycle, but harder to keep out contaminants. 

Contamination can range from greasy pizza boxes to items that are not recyclable, such as wood and auto parts. 

Isle of Wight County has a relatively low rate of contamination because the staff monitors the bins at the county’s refuse and recycling centers, said Etheridge.

With door-to-door service, there’s no way to monitor what is going in the can, he said.  

The Material Recovery Facility in Hampton, where Isle of Wight County’s recyclables end up, also no longer takes glass. Vendors want glass to be completely clean and sorted by color. 

Keaton is reluctant to pull the plug on recycling entirely. 

If a behavior is eliminated, such as recycling, it’s hard to get people to return to doing it, he said.

Other Hampton Roads localities are also reevaluating recycling, with the City of Chesapeake looking at ditching the program, according to the Virginian-Pilot. 

Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams acknowledges that the town’s door-to-door recycling service is expensive, but there is no talk of cancelling the contract with Bay Disposal. 

The town decided to honor the contract with the same price, but will reevaluate when it’s time to renew, said Williams. 

Smithfield currently pays $137,900 a year for its recycling service, according to interim Smithfield Town Manager Sanford “Sandy” Wanner.  {/mprestriction}