Surry ends recycling

Published 4:21 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Surry County is the latest area locality to end recycling services.

According to County Administrator Melissa Rollins, Surry was recently “caught off guard” when its staff tried transporting recyclables to Waste Management’s Atlantic Waste Disposal site in Sussex County, but was turned away.

Surry has since removed the recycling containers from the county’s Goodson Path and Pineview Road solid waste collection sites.

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“We are finding out more and more that recyclable materials are not being recycled; they are ending up in a landfill,” Rollins said.

Waste Management spokeswoman Stephany Holguin confirmed to The Smithfield Times that the nationwide disposal company contracts with Surry County for municipal solid waste. But the contract, she said, doesn’t include recycling — and never did.

The Atlantic Waste Disposal site, she added, is a landfill — intended solely for solid waste.

“Recycling has changed dramatically over recent years and local governments are grappling with this service,” states Surry County’s Facebook page. “Many have since eliminated recycling programs due to labor, costs, and the absence of facilities.”

Smithfield and the city of Franklin, which ended their own recycling contracts with Bay Disposal & Recycling last year, had also claimed their recyclables weren’t actually being recycled — though Bay disputed the allegations. The city of Chesapeake, which contracts with Bay competitor TFC Recycling, also voted in December to end curbside recycling pickups this July.

Isle of Wight County still collects recyclables at its eight refuse and recycling centers, though its Board of Supervisors has discussed the possibility of restricting the program to cardboard and steel or aluminum cans. Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton contends the market for some types of recyclables has “dried up” and that much of what’s collected locally ends up getting incinerated at the Wheelabrator waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth, rather than repurposed.

In 2018, China banned the import of most overseas recyclables. According to reporting by The New York Times, the decision left a number of American municipalities unable to find a substitute market.

Tad Phillips, vice president of business development for TFC, argues the market has since recovered, and contends his company can prove it actually repurposes everything it collects. Glass is currently used as daily landfill cover, but Phillips told the Times in January TFC was in the process of installing equipment at its Chesapeake plant to allow the company to instead clean and sell the glass to a North Carolina recycling company.

For Surry, though, hauling recyclables to TFC’s Chesapeake plant would entail a 100-mile round trip.

“Based on our staffing here,” it’s “just not feasible for us to travel to Chesapeake or Virginia Beach to try to dispose of recycled materials,” Rollins said.