The Recycling Center’s Days May Be Numbered

Some folks are thinking seriously about shutting down the McIntire Recycling Center, Brian Chidester writes in this week’s C-Ville Weekly. With Van Der Linde Recycling’s single-stream waste management system, use of McIntire is declining as waste haulers start telling customers that they can just dump everything in their trashcans. The city contracts with Van Der Linde now for hauling household waste, but still has the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority handle recycling. The question is whether that RSWA relationship is going to continue for either the city or the county, or whether Van Der Linde will underbid the RSWA and simply eliminate any need for a recycling center. Come December, the city and county will need to figure out if they’re going to stick with the RSWA. If they switch to Van Der Linde, things will get interesting.

28 thoughts on “The Recycling Center’s Days May Be Numbered”

  1. Long, long overdue. With curbside available, Van Der Linde or No, I don’t get why c’ville residents needed to have the center? I don’t understand enough about the funding – I suppose if the county is picking up a significant part of the tab, since they don’t offer curbside. If it continues to operate, then it seems it would be smarter to give the contract to Van Der Linde.

  2. What about those of us who live in the County? I save all my recycling and take it once a month to McIntire. Will I have to start taking it to Zions Xroads? Cause driving an hour one way to take my recycling doesnt really excite me….

  3. @Carter
    Whole Foods has a container on the side of their building for recycling. Trash needs to be sorted out but recyclables don’t need to be sorted by type like at McIntire.

    (Don’t remember for sure, but I recall seeing Van Der Linde’s logo on the side of the container.)

  4. Carter, many of the garbage haulers are using Van der Linde, which means that you put your recyclables in the trash along with everything else and they take it away to Van der Linde’s facility, where the recylables are sorted out. We’re in the county, we use Time Disposal and that’s what they’re doing.

  5. I have two concerns with the van der Linde approach:

    (1) Since much of the sorting is done by hand, what protections are in place to protect his employees from needle and other bio-contaminated waste?

    (2) Can paper products that are commingled with trash (e.g. liquid waste and leftover food items) be effectively reclaimed and recycled?

    I have called the van der Linde facility with regard to the second question, and the employee answering the phone could not provide me an answer. I left my name and number, but have yet to receive a call from someone more knowledgeable.

  6. Can paper products that are commingled with trash (e.g. liquid waste and leftover food items) be effectively reclaimed and recycled?

    Speaking only from my own limited knowledge, and not for Van Der Linde’s system, commingling food with paper products does diminish the value of that paper. It can generally still be recycled, but the reduction in quality can be significant. If it’s too far gone, then it’s only good for burning for its waste energy.

    If it’s viable for you, I recommend composting food waste. That doesn’t just keep it from commingling with your paper products, but it’ll produce compost!

  7. Nancy, how do you know that much of the sorting is done by hand? It’s an honest question: I was under the impression, from reading the Hook’s write-up on the facility, that Van der Linde invested in very expensive sorting equipment to make single-stream possible, not that he was using armies of employees to sort by hand.

  8. With regard to Waldo’s great suggestion, I live in area where composting invites animals that can are best left in the woods :-) If the paper quality is diminished to the point that it is used for waste energy, then doesn’t that scenario add to carbon emissions? Also, do you think that the average person is going to care enough to keep that trash free of liquids and other waste that will not damage paper?

    Cecil, I have a friend that toured the facility and told me that they were amazed at how much hand sorting is performed. I found the following picture from the van der Linde site that implies hand sorting is part of the process: 031.JPG

  9. Cecil, one more follow up to your post – the word “much” in reference to quantity of hand sorting is/was inappropriate. I should have written “Since the sorting process includes hand sorting…” Your question and critique are well founded.

  10. While surely quality of some recyclable paper goods will be diminished, the enormous spike in paper goods that will be recycled should more than offset that. If, say, 10% of paper was being recycled under the old model (separate stuff out, take it to the recycling center), and 50% of paper ends up recycled under this new model (single-stream), even if half of the paper ends up ruined, that’s still more than twice as much paper that gets recycled.

  11. The math made me dizzy for a moment there, Waldo. But I like your reasoning. We just switched to Dixon Disposal which uses Van Der Linde’s operation. It’s taking a bit of getting used to the single stream idea but we still separate a great many things because it means far fewer trips to the trash can outside and we think it’ll make the sorting more effective. (Fewer trips because the dry stuff – paper, cardboard, rinsed, empty bottle and the like – can sit around without creating any issues in the house.

  12. I did the same for a while, Chris, but eventually decided to just commingle everything, on the theory that I’d just compost the stuff that could potentially mar the paper products. But I haven’t built a compost container yet, so I’m basically just ruining a bunch of paper products. :)

    On a related note, I’m looking for a pickup truck. The reason I don’t have a compost pile is that I have no way to haul the ~100 cinderblocks that I’ll need to construct it—the trunk of the Volvo probably isn’t going to do the truck. So, hey, if anybody’s got a 2001-2004 Toyota Tundra (or possibly Tacoma) they’re looking to part with, I’m all ears.

  13. I live in a condo complex downtown that doesn’t use a trash hauler that goes to Van Der Linde and doesn’t have a recycling pick up (the city tried that for a short time, but couldn’t pick up enough to keep the bins from overflowing). Obviously, it’d be lovely if we could switch to a company that goes to Van Der Linde’s when the contract is next up for renewal, but until then, we’ll happily go to McIntire.

    I have to confess that I really like going there…but maybe that’s because it reminds me of going to the recycling center when I was a kid. :)

  14. I found the following picture from the van der Linde site that implies hand sorting is part of the process: 031.JPG

    I feel the need to point out that the link provided is now a 404 error message. Which means someone “Yanked” the photo. And probably did so to try and hide something. If anyone had a copy of it- and could upload it somewhere else? It would be appreciated.

    On another note- lets say I don’t want to pay someone to recycle. There is a metal value to aluminum. So where do I go in town to collect that? When I was a kid it was Coiners. Damned if I want to pay anyone for the privilege of making money off of my garbage.

    There is no reason that people interested in recycling shouldn’t make an attempt to realize a small personal profit from their efforts, and leave the rest of the stuff that’s harder for private parties to sell- leave that stuff to people like Vanderlinde.

    Of course if Vanderlinde’s machine really works- How hard would it be for Cville to purchase the equivalent and set it up for use and profit? (Obvious suggestion being that maybe it’s not as perfect as advertised).

    At the end of the day I’ll say, “screw the environment” I’ll just get a “burn barrel” and chuck it all in that with some gas and recycled oil to get the heat going, before I pay someone for the privilege of making money off of my trash.

    As to the person who mentioned the “wild animal” challenges regarding food composting. Amen to that.

    I manage a small colony of feral cats and I’ve got a possum I’ve named “Stubby” (because damn near all of his tail is gone except for the 6 inches closest to his body) who comes by each night to finish off whatever the ferals have not. I can easily see a compost pile attracting more of the same. And I live in an urbanized part of the outskirts of Albemarle.

  15. There is a whole lot of misinformation about the Van Der Linde approach, and really very little coverage of that in the media. Part of it comes down to what we mean by recycling. As Waldo pointed out, contaminated paper products can’t be made into the same quality materials. Is it recycling if part of your materials are ground up and used as road fill?

    The ideal situation is one where paper becomes paper, bottles become bottles, and cans become new cans. Single stream produces lower grade materials than voluntary sorting. In fact, I’ve heard from a good source that UVa and their voluntary process produces a higher percentage of high quality reusable waste than Van Der Linde (and they also have composting).

    Don’t get me wrong Van Der Linde’s process is a huge advance, and helps fill the gap for people that would never sort. It’s not the silver bullet that people make it out to be. Also, for rural residents who don’t pay for trssh pick up with a company that uses Van Der Linde, it’s not a viable option.

    I suspect that part of this move to kill the recycling center is political and financial in nature, and goes back to the conflicts between city and county including revenue sharing.

    Lastly, folks, please read they cities guide on composting. There are ways to do it in the city (even in your own home) without attracting pests.

  16. I stopped going to McIntire when they cut the hours, it was very convenient for me to go at 7:30 am before work.
    About the time they changed the hours someone told me about the Van Der Linde container beside Whole Foods, and I’ve been using it ever since.

    It’s never locked!
    I can recycle plastics #1-#7! (not just #1&#2)

    It’s made recycling easier for me, and you should have seen my son’s face when I told him he didn’t have to sort the recycling anymore (one of his chores).

    I live in Nelson county and they stopped taking glass about 2 years ago, so it was easier to make one trip with all the recyclables when I come to town.

  17. Like Carter, I live in the far reaches of the county. (In fact, if I could use Orange county’s satellite dump stations, I’d drop curbside altogether.) Consequently, I felt the time and distance involved in using the McIntire ctr probably costs more in terms of “footprint” than just tossing the stuff, however still would take my recycle-ables if I was making a trip to that area for other reasons.

    Picking up on Lonnie’s points, I wonder how good single stream *really* is at sorting? For example, I used to generally pack my trash, so to speak, to save space. For example, if there was a plastic peanut butter “jar” in the trash and I had a small can, stuff it in the jar to save space. Oh! the whole mess will fit in that empty cereal box. I doubt machinery can untangle that mess effectively, so I don’t do it anymore.

    The question as to whether I am deeply disturbed for ever doing it is another issue.

  18. Have any of the powers that be mentioned the increased carbon footprint of having multiple trucks handling trash/recyclables? Right now, there are two trucks driving through my neighborhood–one for recycling and one for trash. Plus, the carbon costs of driving the recycling to the center so that it can be driven by a third truck out to Ivy.

    Even with some recyclables lost in the single stream format, I would think the reduction in exhaust and gas consumption would be fairly significant.

  19. What I want to know is … if the city switches to single-stream trash/recycling pickup, will I still get to pay per bag? Because even if I bag recyclables, I won’t come near $24/month (which is what Time Disposal wants from me if I switch to them.)

    I have a family of 4. We put out 5 bags of trash per month on average. If I bag recyclables, it will be one more bag per week, so call it 9 per month. That’s under $10/month with the current setup in the city.

    But part of the reason they do that is to encourage recycling, since recycling = free. The more you recycle the less you pay for trash pickup. With single-stream, there’s no need for encouragement.

    I use McIntire for things we can’t put on the curb … large corrugate, fluorescent bulbs, etc.

    whoRu – I believe you are right, sticking a recyclable metal can inside a recyclable plastic container renders both unrecyclable. To my knowledge no company takes the time to separate those. You should keep things separate.

    BTW – I compost, and as you can tell, I live in the city … I have no problems with wildlife getting into my composter. I compost vegetation only, that goes a long way towards keeping it animal-free.

  20. Barbara, to me, that seems to be the best approach. Continue supporting people to sort their recyclables, and then send the rest of the trash to a company like Van Der Linde to reclaim the rest.

    I’ve also heard that if you sort your recyclables out and then put them in a bag together with your singles stream waste that you improve the amount and quality of what is actually recycled. (for example, you could put your paper waste in a bag and then put it in your trash.)

    Regarding Whole Foods, I suspect that if McIntire shut down that they could not handle the volume that currently goes through McIntire. Shoppers and recyclers would be competing for parking.

  21. Lonny Murray Wrote:

    Don’t get me wrong Van Der Linde’s process is a huge advance, and helps fill the gap for people that would never sort. It’s not the silver bullet that people make it out to be.

    I’m going to take a moment to point out something I saw this year.

    I was in Forest Lakes on business. And I saw a trash company collecting garbage. Now the folks on this street in Forest Lakes, had gone through the process of “Sorting out the recyclables” so that it was NOT mixed in with the regular trash.

    Guess what.

    The disposal contractor came down the road and dumped everything into the same truck. Thereby defeating the purpose of separating out the recyclables.

    Go figure.

  22. Separating recyclables when using a single stream comingled with trash is ineffective. As the trash hauler picks up trash, they regularly compact their load allowing for density of pickup. So even if you separate paper, glass and plastic into separate bags from trash for collection, it will umtimately become comingled on the trash truck.

    As a result of the comments on this post, I have researched and read a lot of the pro and con arguments of single stream recycling from both commercial recyclers and environmental groups. The consensus is that value of paper recycling is greatly diminished with single stream when it is mixed with trash. Similarly, the value of glass recycling in a single stream environment also take a hit regradless if it is mixed with trash. When glass breaks, it loses most, if not all of its recyclable value because of the mixing of various glass types (e.g. colored and clear glass). So for me personally, I will continue to use the McIntire Recycling Center as long as it remains open to maximize the benefit of my personal recycling.

  23. Maybe van der Linde should get a contract to run the McIntire Center.
    The city does not take all recycleabes, for instance cardboard above a certain size. Very useful to have the center for items like that.
    In the city, as was pointed out, there are 2 trucks on trash day. one for trash and one for recycling. That is practical. But what seems wasteful is that the truck only picks up on one side of the street at a time, and has to make another trip for the other side. Still haven’t figured out why that is.

  24. My point about with the Forest Lakes example- was that the residents had separate bins provided for the purpose of separating recyclables from regular garbage.

    So I’m guessing most of them had no clue that their trash hauler had switched to single stream. And I’m guessing their trash hauler didn’t tell them either.

  25. @HollowBoy: I’d assume that haulers pick up from only one side of the street for both safety & time savings: idling while it’s clear for the worker to jay walk back and forth several times must waste a certain amount of time. And darting out from behind a large truck to jay walk repeatedly during the work day seems unnecessarily dangerous.

  26. We need to responsibly discard CFL and regular fluorescent bulbs on a regular basis. I am still separating my recyclables curbside, too.

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