Tuesday, September 9, 2008

As the recycling world turns...

When Betty first found me (or I found her, I'm not totally sure which)a year ago I couldn't understand what was so hard about having curbside recycling in the county and I didn't believe any of the claims that it wasn't making money. So I joined a citizen action committee in the hopes that I could help drive positive change (a la Betty's mission and my own personal mission).

Though I'm still surprised that recycling facilities can't make more money doing what seems to me such an important and responsible human act, it's not as easy as one would think. I keep learning about the collecting, sorting, hauling, single-stream vs co-mingling, transporation costs, and market values which make recycling more complex than just tossing your recyclables into a bin.

Today I took a tour of the UVA recycling facility compliments of Sonny Beale with the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority CAC (citizen action committee) of which I am a part.

The sheer volumes of waste and recyclables that UVA hauls and sorts and redistributes is difficult to comprehend. We sat around the loading dock and listened to Sonny spew amazing numbers - in the tons. Here are just a few:

UVA recycles over 2000 tons of paper annually
UVA recycles over 700 tons of cardboard a year
They run the R.O.S.E program: the Reuse of Office Supply Exchange, which is open to the public. Who knew? (Well now you do!) Attention non-profits and schools and small business owners and anyone else interested - they have a section of free office supplies. As long as you don't mind used manila folders, they are yours for the taking.
They support a medical equipment reycling program (M.E.R.C.I. is the acronym for Medical Equipment Recovery of Clean Inventory which is run by volunteers from the OR and other medical center employees and students). Useable medical equipment is sterilized and then sent out to remote areas and disaster relief organizations.
They collect inkjet cartridges (photo above is just from the past week)
They recycle all sorts of media like CDs, disks, cell phones, etc.

Interesting note (this is news to Betty): the paper that reams of paper come in - even if it's recycled-content paper - that paper itself has a plastic in it and gums up the machine. Please don't recycle that paper covering. Same with the paper that labels come on. The labels (even though they have stick) are fine to recycle, but the paper they stick on (that waxy looking kind) is non-recyclable.

The most depressing thing Sonny told us was that in a recent study of trash collected at UVA a total of 40% was recyclable materials!

The other depressing piece: the improved Scott stadium was promised to have 50/50 recycling/trash all throughout the arena, but in reality it came out 60/40 and the John Paul Jones Arena, which seats almost 16,000 per event, is still working out the details of how, where to allow their patrons to recycle (it seems that "aesthetics" place a big role in recycling over there). He didn't give me any numbers, but I felt a little ill thinking of the major consumption/waste generated over there that is headed straight to Ivy Landfill. (I complained the last event I went to there because I had to search for ten minutes just to find their recycling receptacles, which as optimistic as I am I know not everyone will do)

Sonny reported that keeping everyone at UVA informed and aware of the broad range of recycling there is an uphill battle with staff and student flux.

Nevertheless they are doing an amazing job. For more details see: http://recycle.virginia.edu

After the tour, we had an interesting discussion about Van der Linde's new recycling facility at Zion Crossroads that is supposedly 60-90 days away from opening. 12 million big ones have gone into that project. We all look forward to seeing what we could do as a community (the city, the county, uva, and however many surrounding areas) to make it a win-win for everyone (rumors of rent-free containers abound. The question is who will bring all those people to the recycling table? I hear Betty can host a pretty decent potluck!



Environmental Research Solutions said...

It was a joy to have u on the tour...UVA Recycling is on the frontline of getting material recycled...my hats off to them, and to you, and your enviro blog...and thanks for understanding that there is just a bit more to recycling than just throwing materials in a collection bin...
Bruce J. Edmonds III
Keeping Jefferson Country Green One Day @ a Time...

Amanda said...

I'm currently using Dixon Trash disposal and live in Albemarle. I've been carting all recycling to McIntire- fairly pain in butt w/ two little ones so I contacted Allied who said they would pick all recycling up- plastic, glass, boxboard, etc. It is slightly more expensive but thought worth it. When husband called Dixon to cancel they told him Allied "lied" that there was an ordinance for newspaper recycling only. I read this to be that trash haulers had a minimum requirement to recycle newspaper if left out. If I use Allied, can I feel safe my recycling will REALLY be recycled? I live on tight budget and don't want to pay extra for no reason. Thanks for any advice!

BWB said...

You're correct in your reading: trash haulers in the county are required to provide newspaper recycling at the very least. Recently Allied Waste has expanded their service. In fact, my neighborhood is about to contract for curbside recycling with them,(but only for a one-year contract - change is happening fast and when (not if :-) the county goes curbside, I want to support that). Keep up the good work!