Rappahannock County has worst recycling rate in state, says 2017 report

Rappahannock County in 2017 had the lowest recycling rate of 117 counties, cities and towns across the commonwealth that submitted data to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

By John McCaslin
Recycling bins at the Flatwood recycling center in Washington await deposits.
By John McCaslin

So reveals the “Commonwealth of Virginia’s 2017 Recycling Summary Report,” issued by the the DEQ and dated November 2018.

“Based on data from 117 local governments across the commonwealth, the state recycling rate is 42.8 percent, which continues the positive trend in Virginia’s recycling efforts,” the report states.

In Rappahannock County, which has recycling centers in Washington and Amissville, the recycling rate was only 15.2 percent — 598 recycled tons — the lowest recycling percentage of all reporting communities in Virginia, regardless of population.

The next worst recycling rate after Rappahannock was 17.3 percent (2,875 tons) in Botetourt County, which is west of Lynchburg; and 19.7 percent (483 tons) in Craig County, northwest of Roanoke.

In comparison, Fauquier County’s recycle rate was 41.3 percent (36,278 tons), Loudoun 37.1 percent (159,376 tons), Prince William 34.6 percent (228,512 tons), Spotsylvania 35 percent (69,915 tons) and Fairfax 48.8 percent (620,255 tons).

Jurisdictions with populations above 100,000 are required to submit recycle data annually to the DEQ, while with communities like Rappahannock below 100,000 people the reports submitted for 2017 were on a volunteer basis. However, recycling surveys are required from Rappahannock and other low-populated jurisdictions every four years, with the next reports due in 2020.

Culpeper and Madison counties chose not to provide data this year.

Warren and Page counties, which border Rappahannock, are included in the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission Solid Waste Planning Unit (SWPU), which includes Clarke, Frederick, Shenandoah, and the city of Winchester. This particular unit, with a combined population well above 100,000 people, had the second highest recycling rate in Virginia in 2017 at 56.6 percent (133,018 tons), just behind the Richmond area.

The highest recycling rate among reporting jurisdictions below 100,000 people was the town of Vinton, near Roanoke, at 64 percent (5,744 tons).

“The trend for Virginia continues to move in a steady, positive direction,” said DEQ Land Protection and Renewal Division Director Justin Williams. “For example, four years ago the rate was 41 percent, which was well above the state mandated rate of 25 percent. Today, we have nine local planning units reporting amounts that are near 50 percent or higher.”

More than 100 Virginia cities, counties and towns, which are organized into 17 solid waste planning units, are required by law to achieve and maintain a minimum recycling rate of 25 percent. Jurisdictions with less than 100 persons per square mile, such as Rappahannock, are required to achieve and maintain a minimum 15 percent recycling rate.

In other words, Rappahannock was just .2 percent above the lowest allowable recycling rate, according to the report. If at any time the rate falls below 15 percent, DEQ would require a Recycling Action Plan be developed and submitted by the non-conforming jurisdiction.

The recycling rate averages are determined in part by measuring the amount of principal recyclable materials collected, including paper, plastic, glass, aluminum and steel cans, and comparing the total with the amount of solid waste delivered to sanitary landfills or incinerators for disposal. Other factors are also put into the equation.

All that said, the United States is currently scrambling to find dumping grounds for much of its recyclables now that China, which has been the world’s top destination for plastics, paper and other renewable materials, announced a ban on the imports. China has complained that hazardous materials were mixed in with the waste that countries were sending them to recycle.

In the meantime, as the U.S. and other exporters search for new takers, recyclable materials are being stored in growing stockpiles, or else to the detriment of the environment incinerated or dumped in landfills with other garbage.

Historical Recycling Rate Data for Virginia, 1991-2017

  • 2017 – 42.8%
  • 2016 – 42.6%
  • 2015 – 44.2%
  • 2014 – 42.5%
  • 2013 – 41.2%
  • 2012 – 41.5%
  • 2011 – 43.5%
  • 2010 – 40.5%
  • 2009 – 38.6%
  • 2008 – 38.5%
  • 2007 – 38.5%
  • 2006 – 38.4%
  • 2005 – 32.2%
  • 2004 – 29.8%
  • 2003 – 30.3%
  • 2002 – 36.8%
  • 2001 – 37.8%
  • 2000 – 32.9%*
  • 1995 – 35.0%
  • 1993 – 33.4%
  • 1991 – 19.7%

— Source: DEQ

About John McCaslin 336 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.

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