Smithfield recycling ends Jan. 15

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Residential curbside recycling services will end in Smithfield on Jan. 14 and Jan. 15.

Town officials say the move is expected to save about $100,000 annually. Smithfield decided to end recycling as a way to offset a $300,000 budget shortfall due primarily to lost meals tax revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The town also implemented a $6 monthly trash collection fee.

Under contract with Norfolk-based Bay Disposal, the company was collecting recycling from about 3,000 stops, according to town manager Michael Stallings. Recycling was collected on the town’s west side every other Thursday and from the east side of Smithfield every other Friday.

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In an email, Bay Disposal said with 1,000 subscribers, Smithfield residents may continue recycling at $8 per month. But as of Dec. 17 the company said, just 45 residents have indicated they’d like to pay for the curbside service.

Bay Disposal is presently the only option. However Stallings said if enough customers contract with the company to continue recycling collections, the town would negotiate a franchise agreement. As an alternative, “residents may elect to carry their recycling to any of the county’s collection centers if they wish to continue recycling.”

Smithfield resident Janet Moore said she’s concerned that if everyone puts the materials into the trash that were going into the recycling bin, trash collection costs will increase. So too will costs go up if lots of people switch to recycling at Isle of Wight’s convenience centers. She doubts curbside recycling will be available due to lack of participation but still plans to do what she can within her household.

“Realistically, I don’t know if we will collect, store and transport the same quantity of recyclables to the convenience centers that we have done for years with curbside,” Moore said. “Since our trash can is already full every week, I know we won’t be able to get all the previously recycled materials into it without paying for a second can.”

Going forward, Moore said, “we will probably end up with a hybrid approach: still try to collect and store recyclables in our garage in our own containers, occasionally taking some to the convenience center and putting some in our trash can each week as space allows.”

A shift in world markets has caused the demand for recycled materials to decline, town officials wrote in their fall 2020 newsletter. As a result, they said, incineration is often the only cost-effective option. Bay Disposal said they estimate that 70% of recycling collected in Hampton Roads is processed as recycled material while 30% is incinerated and used for steam power.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University, citing the Environmental Protection Agency, said just 94.2 million of the 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste generated by Americans in 2017 was recycled or composted.

“Because U.S. recycling was dependent on China for so many years, our domestic recycling infrastructure was never developed, so there was no economical or efficient way to handle recycling when the market disappeared,” the institute said in a lengthy blog post under the headline “Recycling in the U.S. is Broken. How Do We Fix It?”

The institute said solutions include improving education and consumer awareness, implementing legislation that regulates the production, use and disposal of single use plastic items and offering incentives for residents and businesses that reduce the amount of waste they generate.

Town residents who would like to continue recycling services may call Bay Disposal at 757-857-9700.