CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va -- Dennis soaked up a moment with his grandson at a Chesterfield County convenience center Monday afternoon. It was a small task, dropping off recyclables, but Dennis believed it had a big impact.
“This is one of the things we look forward to doing together," Dennis said. “I’m trying to teach him as well not to just throw stuff but to recycle and the importance of recycling.”
Dennis, who considered himself to be an avid recycler of 15 years, said the reason he recycles is pretty simple.
"I just don't want to fill my trashcan up with stuff that I can recycle, because if you can recycle cardboard and plastic, why not?" he said.
Dennis and his grandson weren't the only ones utilizing the Northern Area Convenience Center, located in Midlothian, for recycling purposes.
"There's no reason to put it in the landfill if you can bring it here. It's free," a man named Bob, who joked that wine bottles are among his most recycled items, said. “It’s easy. It's good for the environment."
Both men said they prefer using Chesterfield's convenience centers over curbside recycling because it's the cheaper option. It's free.
“The free is always good in my mind," Bob said. "You can do curbside. Nobody does it, because you have to pay for it, and so that's the primary issue with the curbside."
As previously reported, the county is changing the way it approaches curbside recycling. Beginning July 1, Chesterfield will terminate its contract with its regional partner Central Virginia Waste Management Authority (CVWMA).
For decades, CVWMA has partnered with local governments across the region to offer curbside services, and according to CVWMA, Chesterfield will be the first locality to end its contract.
Instead, residents who wish to continue curbside recycling services must go through a private vendor. On average, those vendors are charging customers between $80 and $120 per year for services.
The new model will be two to three 3 times more expensive than what residents paid under the previous contract with CVWMA, but county leaders said that price is still less expensive than what a new contract with CVWMA would have cost.
Chesterfield wanted a subscription-based model from CVWMA. CVWMA said other less expensive options were available to Chesterfield County, such as a base-level service where all homes are eligible for service, but the county said that option was undesirable since less than 60% of households used CVWMA's program.
“There have been some questions about what the future will look like, and we've been answering those questions as best as we can to make sure that they're aware that recycling is not going away," John Neal, Director of General Services for Chesterfield County, said. “Our goal is to make this as smooth of a transition as possible.”
Neal said county staff has been hard at work and in constant communication with the five private vendors who will be offering curbside recycling starting in July. Those vendors are Choice, GFL, Waste Management, TFC and Zan's.
During a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, business leaders updated board members about their efforts to sign up customers and prepare for the transition.
Choice is the only hauler which is automatically opting in and billing customers for curbside recycling. According to the board presentation, Choice has about 37,000 customers enrolled in the service. Customers who do not want the service can contact Choice to be removed.
The other four vendors are only opting in customers upon request.
For residents who do not want to pay for curbside recycling, the county is expanding its free recycling services.
Later this summer, Neal said the county's two convenience centers will be open seven days a week instead of five days a week. He said the county is hiring staff to accommodate the extended days and is looking to adjust traffic flow.
Additionally, six parks across Chesterfield will be getting recycling bins including:
- Horner Park
- Huguenot Park
- Rockwood Park
- Daniel Park
- Goyne Park
- Dodd Park
Neal said the locations were strategically chosen so that no resident is more than 10 minutes away from a recycling bin.
Despite the switch to privatize curbside recycling, Neal believes participation from residents will increase. He does not expect Chesterfield's diversion rate, which is the amount of trash diverted from a landfill, to decrease.
"I am very optimistic that that is an achievable goal for us to do, particularly with us expanding our options and opportunities for citizens to drop off their recyclables and also getting them the information where they can contact their vendors directly," Neal said.
He added that the county will be tracking participation numbers and diversion rates in the months to come. That data will still be collected by the CVWMA.
Previously, leaders from neighboring Henrico County and a CVWMA board member raised concerns that Chesterfield's decision to end its program with CVWMA would negatively impact the regional diversion rate and cause the number of residents participating in recycling to "significantly drop."
“We take environmental stewardship very seriously in Chesterfield County," Neal reassured.
It's a value that Dennis hopes to instill in his grandson as part of the next generation.
“As he gets older and we continue to work with him, he’ll pick up on it all right," Dennis said.
For more information, Chesterfield County posted updates on recycling services here and here.
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