Frederick County recycling on the rocks, as industry remains uncertain

Virginia

Local officials searching for solutions to an international problem

FREDERICK COUNTY, Va. (WDVM) — Due to changes in the global market, the way Frederick County, Virginia residents recycle may be changing.

County officials were notified June 13 that after 60 days, the company the county sells recyclable materials to, Southern Scrap, will no longer take certain products, such as cardboard, plastics, and newspapers.

“The big items that we have been offering free recycling for years,” said Karen Vacchio, the county’s Public Information Officer.

The change isn’t because of decisions made solely on a local level, but rather due to changes industry-wide.

“Changes in like China and other Asian countries, who are basically not taking U.S. trash anymore,” said Vacchio, who likens the recycling process to re-selling, rather than simply re-using. “If you have six dining room chairs you need to sell and nobody wants to buy them, then you’re stuck with it.”

When items are recycled, they’re diverted from a landfill and sold to a recycling company, such as Southern Scrap. That company can then either use the products itself, or sell them to another company that can use them. However, it’s important to note the County isn’t profiting from the service. Vacchio says any proceeds from the sales are used to keep the program running.

Although one piece of the county’s recycling program is faltering, the county is still recycling other products, including shoes, clothing, tires, oil, and antifreeze.

“Our other programs that we have are things like hazardous household waste,” Vacchio said. “We have our electronics recycling program that’s been going on for I think a couple decades now.”

In a statement, County Solid Waste Manager Gloria Puffinburger wrote the following:

“We really hope to continue our current programs through at least the end of the calendar year but with the uncertainty in the recycling industry as a whole, we are not completely surprised. Researching options for recycling and other waste issues is a constant in my office. We have a number of ideas being explored and there is outreach being done to try to find both a short-term, mid-term, and long-term solution.”

Vacchio and Puffinburger are actively working to find a solution to the problem before their contract expires with Southern Scrap, which is constantly changing according to Vacchio, given the uncertainty across the market.

Members of the Public Works Committee are expected to address the issue at their meeting Tuesday morning.

Steven Williams, the C.E.O. of Southern Scrap, could not be reached for comment.

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