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BIN NOWHERE

South Boston News
SoVaNow.com / June 13, 2019
Those bottles, cans and newspapers you’ve been hauling to a Halifax County convenience center to be recycled?

They’re being dumped in a landfill.

The suspension of the county’s recycling program dates back to April, when County Administrator Scott Simpson moved to halt deliveries of recyclables to the Chester vendor that had been paying the county for its stream of reusable wastes.

Simpson said he made an administrative decision to halt the deliveries to TFC Recycling because the loads that Halifax County shipped were so dirty that the recycling vendor rejected the deliveries. The loads were being thrown into a Richmond landfill instead, Simpson said.

Rather than continue the shipments, the county is now mixing recyclables in with the other trash headed to the regional landfill outside of Boydton.

“If we continue to haul dirty loads across Virginia, then we’re just wasting taxpayer dollars,” said Simpson.

The suspension of the program followed a joint meeting of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, South Boston and Halifax town councils in April, in which the topic of recycling came up for discussion. At that April meeting, Simpson informed the assembled elected officials that the “actual amount of recycling that is physically taking place is almost zero.”

No formal action was taken by the boards, although several participants in the discussion expressed a desire to make improvements in the recycling program and continue Halifax’s decades-long effort to separate out recyclables rather than put them in the landfill.

At the Town of South Boston convenience center, where rows of recycling bins often fill up quickly, one Mecklenburg man, who would only give his first name as Raymond, said he drives 30 minutes from Buffalo Junction to recycle. (Raymond said he was unsure if Mecklenburg offered the service.) He expressed surprise upon hearing that the items he had just deposited in a bin would not actually be recycled.

“That’s a shame,” he said, looking at the bin.

The cessation of the program also affects the Town of Halifax, which offers curbside pickup of recyclables and keeps its stream separate from the county’s. Curbside recycling normally produces cleaner loads, but while Halifax’s recycling deposits may be more acceptable to the vendor, the town relies on county trucks to make deliveries to Chester. Without those shipments, Halifax’s recyclables go in the landfill, too.

“No one has spoken to me about the program being cancelled,” said Halifax mayor Dexter Gilliam.

The Town of Halifax charges residents a $50 fee for curbside recycling service.

County resident Ellie Maeder, who has been recycling since she moved here five years ago, also expressed surprise that the program had ended. Maeder, who moved here from Pennsylvania, said that she could not see a good reason why the county should have suspended the program.

“In the town I was in [in Pennsylvania] there was a man who owned a private recycling plant, and he became uber-rich, so there’s money in it,” said Maeder. “But he had separate bins. One for brown glass and clear glass. Everything was cleaned.”

By contrast, Halifax County has struggled to control the quality of its recycling, in part due to the commingling of items together in a single bin. Maeder noted that the recycling program in her former Pennsylvania home had attendants who checked the bins to weed out random wastes.

The green recycle bins at the South Boston Recycling and Collection Center feature a message informing people not to add plastic bags into the mix, but it is common to see throwaways bagged up and tossed in.

“It plainly says ‘no bags,’ but if you look in there you’ll see there are bags,” Maeder said.

The South Boston site stands alone among the county’s convenience centers in having an attendant who watches over the premises. Larry Mosely, who has worked at the center for nearly 14 years, is responsible for cleaning up around the bins, but his job duties do not call on him to sort loads.

Mosely said he was also unaware the recycling program had been suspended.

“It’s a lot of people [that recycle]. Sometimes the box is full. That happens once a week,” Mosely said.

Maeder expressed concern that once people learn recycling has ended, they would drop the habit altogether.

“I’m afraid if people hear that the program is cancelled, they’ll just stop recycling and then you can’t get them to start again.”

Simpson said his decision is based on the understanding that TFC Recycling has rejected Halifax’s loads completely, meaning that the county is paying for landfill fees in Richmond. He noted the cost of recycling is minimal in the context of the county’s $90 million-plus budget.

“Approximately it was costing $50,000 over a three-year span, that’s $15,000 to $20,000 per year since 2015,” Simpson said.

Simpson added that he supports recycling, but he thinks the Halifax program is failing because of the level of contamination in its loads. The Board of Supervisors has named an advisory committee to come up with a public education campaign, and he hopes to offer a solution for getting the program back up and running before the Board’s August meeting.

The advisory committee is looking at several options to enhance the recycling stream. One idea under discussion is eliminating some of the unmanned collection sites in the county, and requiring residents to use fewer sites — and make the drive to get there — in the hope of attracting only dedicated recyclers.

“It will weed out the citizens that are not putting in the right materials,” Simpson explained.

“The citizens that want to recycle will make that effort to move to another site,” he added.

The committee also is working on new signage to better inform residents of what they can and cannot recycle. TFC Recycling accepts aluminum cans, plastic bottles, mixed paper, steel and tin cans, glass bottles and jars, empty and cleaned food boxes, cardboard, newspaper, magazines, cartons, junk mail, and phone books.

They do not accept anything with food waste on it, plastic bags, electronics, styrofoam, bubble wrap, wood, grass clippings, needles, paint cans, lightbulbs, or toys.

One option that isn’t under consideration by the county is hiring people to sort through recyclables to pull out materials that the recycling vendor won’t accept.

“[The trash] is going to the county’s landfill. None of it is being recycled because we don’t have the manpower to sort it,” Simpson said.

If the education campaign is unsuccessful, Simpson said he is unsure what other steps can be taken.

“If the citizens of the county continue to put things in the wrong boxes, there’s not a lot the county can do about it,” he said.



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Comments

New County Administrator makes an executive decision to halt but does not inform the Town of Halifax ?! Sounds like another power hungry, out of towner, that is at the helm of County Government!!!! He is ill equipped and poorly trained in order to understand his role. If my memory serves me correctly the co-mingling of recyclables was put in place and pushed by none other than JT Davis who said it would reduce the County’s cost of recycling. Poor poor leadership here folks and soon they will be asking taxpayers to find a new landfill when the existing one gets full of trash and recyclables that could have been a revenue stream. Pitiful!

Comments

Ellie, we may talk slow down here but that doesn't necessarily correlate to lower intellect. Do you really think we're too stupid to realize how your uber rich recycling company achieved success? It should be fairly easy to do when the taxpayers are paying his labor costs for sorting. Do you like your cheap property taxes around here? Then....

Comments

Thank goodness for passive aggressive a-holes hiding behind an anonymous comment. Not that she insinuated any such thing, but at least she had the balls to put her name by her comments.

Comments

Dear Leave it,
You misunderstand. I’m a proud Southerner myself. I just lived in PA for awhile. I love this area and have great respect for its people, which is why I wanted to share what I have learned, hoping to help the community in any way I can. I also lived in Switzerland where residents are fined for not recycling and they have to pay $2 for every (small) bag of garbage they produce. People who have learned the importance of recycling tend to take it seriously. With education I’m convinced Halifax County can have a successful and lucrative recycling program. Those that come after us will be grateful for our efforts to limit the number of landfills on the planet.

Comments

Education? I got an education in recycling growing up. We had paper bags and glass bottles. The glass bottles were returned for a deposit, cleaned and reused. It takes a paper bag two to six weeks to decompose in a landfill and it takes a plastic bag 1000 years but I all I hear is pay a carbon tax or pay a fine. Here's some reality about recycling. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/17/recycled-plastic-america-global-crisis

Comments

I think that it would be good to list the newest article that says they will start recycling again.

http://www.thenewsrecord.com/index.php?/news/article/new_life_for_halifax_county_recycling_program/


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