- All three localities will have changes to their recycling programs.
- Residents in all three localities will not be able to recycle plastic through Sonoco.
- Glass won’t be recycled. It will be crushed up and used as refuse cover at the landfill.
- The changes begin April 1.
AUGUSTA COUNTY – Edna Hunter received a letter that would drastically change her business.
She’s the owner of Augusta County Disposal, a disposal service in Augusta County that offers free recycling service for 20 years. Now, she had to let her customers know they can’t take plastic recyclables starting March 30.
Sonoco sent a letter to them last week saying the company couldn’t take recyclable glass or plastic starting April 1 at its Mule Academy Road location in Fishersville. That means all localities — Staunton, Augusta County and Waynesboro — will be affected.
Sonoco is a recycling facility utilized by the area’s trash and recycling pick-up services like Augusta County Disposal and the city of Staunton. Hunter said she has been using the facility for more than 15 years.
Along with Augusta County Disposal, the city of Staunton will no longer be taking plastic recyclables on April 1. The Augusta County Regional Landfill’s last day to accept plastic recyclables will be March 28, a county release said.
As of March 30, Waynesboro will suspend collection of drop-off recyclable plastics at its recycling center, a release from Waynesboro said. Waynesboro does not offer curbside pickup of recycling, instead it has its own recycling center on North Delphine Avenue and 6th Street.
“Due to the eroding market condition for recyclable commodities, limited capacity for processing in our Raleigh MRF, and increasing demands on the quality of recyclable materials, we are in the unfortunate position of having to stop accepting glass and plastic commingled recyclables at our facilities in Madison Heights and Fishersville,” the Sonoco letter said. “We regret being faced with making this decision, and it was not arrived at easily.”
Hunter said the concerning thing is everything plastic will now be waste and taken to the Augusta Regional Landfill.
“We didn’t want to stop taking, but if they can’t accept it we can’t take it to Sonoco,” said Hunter. “Unfortunately it will be taken as trash. It will have to go to the landfill. There is no other facility that was accepting plastic.”
Augusta County Disposal only accepts paper, cardboard and aluminum and will continue to utilize the facility. All three localities will continue to collect glass, but it will be crushed and used as refuse cover at the regional landfill.
Hunter said her company doesn’t pay Sonoco to bring its recyclables to its Fishersville location. The city of Staunton works with Sonoco to pick up mixed paper and cardboard and aluminum collection.
Sonoco implemented a new rate structure last August, which meant an additional annual charges to the city of Staunton of about $20,000 to support the recycling center. In February Staunton removed the recycling center at Gypsy Hill Park due to costs.
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Those Staunton residents who relied on the recycling center will need to drop items in recycling containers at the regional landfill instead, but plastic will not be accepted for recycling there, the release said.
The changes come from a decision overseas in China. In 2018, China announced that it no longer wanted to import U.S. recyclables.
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“The recycling industry is failing and, in turn, forcing recycling processors like Sonoco to either pass along significantly increased costs to us or eliminate the collection of certain recyclable goods,” Staunton City Manager Steve Owens said in a release. “We’re now in the unfortunate position of having to make substantial and undesirable changes to our recycling program.”
If market conditions improve, the city of Staunton is prepared to reevaluate its recycling program.
A letter from Sonoco Recycling sent to suppliers who utilize the Fishersville facility. Sonoco alerted those that the facility would no longer accept plastic or glass. (Photo: Submitted)
Residents not happy
Augusta County resident Patty Sechi has lived in the area for just under two years and has been using Augusta County Disposal since then.
“The method of recycling out here in the county has been pretty sketchy for the duration,” she said in an email. “There haven’t been clear or consistent directions on how to do it and I have called several times to clarify, especially after seeing all of my carefully separated recycling going into the back of the truck with my trash.”
Sechi said she’s always been an avid recycler and re-user. She is a part of the community organization Shenandoah Green, which promotes sustainable, green living in the Staunton, Augusta County and Waynesboro areas. The group was inspired by a News Leader article about three women who tracked their plastic use for a month.
From that, Sechi was inspired. She was already using reusable shopping bags, but she said she’s stepped up her game.
“I avoid buying anything packaged in plastic but if I have to, I find ways to re-use those containers,” she said. “For instance, yogurt containers and the plastic boxes with lids that fresh greens come in are great little seedling starter pots and mini-greenhouses. They are also handy for organizing drawers, mixing paints, etcetera. I use the metallic lids that come on yogurts to cover my cat food cans in the refrigerator as they are quite reusable.”
Shenandoah Green has been meeting monthly to find new ways to reduce the use of plastic in the Shenandoah Valley. Shenandoah Green President Georgi Tomisato and others in the organization have been urging community members to talk to local stores, like large grocery chains and smaller businesses, to stop using plastic bags, containers and more. Instead, they hope businesses and members of Shenandoah Green will encourage the use of reusable bags and containers.
To learn more about Shenandoah Green visit the organization on Facebook.
More on plastic here: The pact: Three friends reduce plastic in their lives
More on plastic here: The ‘living without plastic’ movement
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Follow Laura Peters @peterslaura. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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