Virginia Recycling Association

Virginia Recycling Association Names New Board Leadership


CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – The Virginia Recycling Association (VRA) is pleased to announce the election of two new directors and 5 new committee chairs who will each help support the nonprofit’s work to raise the voice of recycling in Virginia.

The VRA chose Republic Services’ Dan Ciesla and the City of Newport News’ Dan Baxter as its new Directors in October 2021.

“We’re excited to expand our board with two new Directors who will bring diverse expertise and insight to our work,” said outgoing VRA president Teresa Sweeney. “We have worked diligently to ensure VRA’s board and leadership represents a variety of experts from business, government, and education, and the newest board members have the energy, insight and expertise to take our organization to the next level.”

Click here to read the full press release!



RADFORD VA – The Virginia Recycling Association (VRA) today announced two new board members and a new executive committee who will each help support the nonprofit’s work to raise the voice of recycling in Virginia.

The VRA chose RDS General Manager Billy Basham as its new president. Basham has served on the VRA board since 2020 and most recently was the board’s treasurer; Trex Company Materials Account Manager Stephanie Hicks as its vice-president. Hicks has served on the VRA board since 2017 and most recently was the board’s secretary; RDS President Joe Benedetto as its treasurer. Benedetto has served on the VRA board since 2017; Recycling Coordinator for the City of Winchester Michael Neese as its Secretary. Neese has served on the VRA board since 2019

Click here to read the full press release!



Keep Virginia Recycling!

Stay safe and well – and recycle like you want to make a difference

Richmond, VAMarch 30, 2020 The Virginia Recycling Association and its members are calling on everyone to keep recycling. While it may not be the first industry that springs to mind when measuring the impact that the spread of COVID-19 is having in Virginia and around the world, your recycling plays an important role in the survival of numerous key businesses and the production of countless essential products. 

Recycled materials are part of your daily life. From toilet paper and paper towels, to cans and plastic containers, even carpeting, clothing and eyeglasses contain materials that can be recycled at home. Household consumers and their recycling activity are the most important part of the production line for lots of products.  With more Virginians staying home from work and school, more recycling is being generated every day by households. It is important that this recyclable material is captured and processed.  

Once recyclable materials leave the curb, they become commodities such as scrap metals, plastic pellets, glass cullet, and paper fiber, which are then processed, traded and used in manufacturing. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), the scrap recycling industry generates nearly $110 billion annually in economic benefit to the US economy and more than $1.7 billion right here in Virginia [i]

The Virginia Recycling Association encourages governments, waste and recycling collectors and residents to continue recycling at the curb or designated drop off sites to support our economy and our environment.   

Contact your local government, or curbside recycling collection company for more information on the materials that are collected for recycling in your area.

Read the PDF version of this Press Release by clicking here.

About the Virginia Recycling Association

The Virginia Recycling Association (VRA) provides leadership in sustainable recycling and resource management in Virginia. VRA is the leading resource of recycling information for our members, the general public, the Virginia General Assembly, local government, business, and industry. For more information visit

The Virginia Recycling Association (VRA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America Old Dominion Chapter (SWANA) have postponed their joint conference and trade show due to concern about the coronavirus COVID 19.

Originally scheduled for April, the conference has been rescheduled for October 27-30 at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront. The theme of the conference is Navigating Changes on the Horizon which will speak to the challenges the industries face as global recycling markets are in flux.

Click here to read the full press release!



This article was written by Noel King – Writer, Editor, Blogger and Communications Committee Member of the Virginia Recycling Association.

Michael Neese, aka Michael Recycle, is the first of Winchester’s “Service League” superheroes, introduced to earthlings this past year by the City of Winchester’s Communications Team— “They’re super geniuses,” says Neese, who has a not-so-secret superpower that is evident the minute you begin to talk recycling with him: passion.

As the Refuse and Recycling Manager for the City of Winchester, Neese says that although he thinks about recycling 90 percent of the time that he is awake, he realizes his curbside customers typically don’t share that focus, usually forgetting about their trash or recycling once they put it curbside, “so getting their attention to a change is a challenge.”

Although Neese’s staff try hard to educate the public to such changes, such as by placing explanatory stickers on curbside items they cannot accept, Neese says he still receives 12 to 20 phone calls a day from sometimes irritated citizens seeking further explanation.

Rather than responding in kind, Neese says he seeks to redirect the energy of their misunderstanding: “I try to move their anger. I like to think of anger as just passion. They might be focusing that passion on me for the initial moment, but once they understand that you can only put on a truck what you can get off a truck, that this is a state-wide situation, this is an industry-wide situation, this is a United States-wide situation, they get that broader scope and how they fit into it. Then they can take that passion and direct it to the problem and actually solving the problem.”

Neese says his teenage son and daughter share his passion about recycling, resource management, and minimalization: “They’ve been around it so long, they see it.” He says his son quickly grasped the recycling mentality from being a Boy Scout participating in several-day hiking/biking/camping trips in which he had to carry all of his food with him and then carry his trash back out with him.

“When you have to carry four days’ worth of trash, before you make that trash, you’re thinking really hard about it. Everything is focused on multi-use; otherwise, why are you carrying that weight? That really sunk it home for him.”

He says his daughter was “a little bit harder to bring on board. She was passionate and she felt for the environment, but to actually take action was more difficult. So I made her wash dishes. After about a week of washing “a LOT of dishes” daily for four people, “she started becoming mindful of what she was using,” realizing “I don’t need a new cup every time I get a cup of water. I don’t need a new plate; I don’t need six pieces of silverware.”

The importance of mindful use is certainly obvious to Neese’s sanitation crews, who service about 11,000 Winchester locations weekly, all on an “old-school manual lift.” In a recent typical 40-hour week, eight sanitation workers collected 146 tons of trash and recycling combined. That means each worker manually collected 36,500 pounds, which averages out to roughly 4,500 pounds per person per week or 112 pounds per person per hour.

Neese is hoping to greatly assist his crews in the near future with the purchase of semi-automated or automated equipment, pending Winchester City Council budget approval.

On a broader scale, he would love to see all of the solid waste of the United States processed and maintained domestically: “It’s our problem, it’s our material, it’s our potential resource. We need to keep that here.”

On the individual level, his vision is for people to be mindful about what they use, purchase, and dispose of and to eliminate single use items. He explains, “There’s no birth/death linear A to B points anywhere that I’m familiar with. Everything is a cycle and nothing disappears. Instead, it begins a new chapter of its life cycle. Everything has that cycle, so being mindful every time something is in our hands and leaving our control [is essential].”

He adds,” There is no magic bullet. When you put all of your resources in one basket, you are creating a huge problem somewhere else. We need diverse baskets; we need diverse options so that there is no single answer but each community, each processing place, each generator of waste is making the best decision for them, as an individual and a collective.”

Whatever the future holds, there seems never to be a dull moment for an R&R superhero. When asked recently by an interviewer what he planned to do for the rest of the workday, a Tuesday, Neese responded, “I don’t know if you can hear the phones ringing in the background, but I will answer them, [take care of] voicemails and emails, and then I’ll probably go out in the field and check on my guys.”

michael reese blog image Following that, he said, he would likely work on some schoolwork [he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration; his undergraduate degree is in Sustainable Enterprise Management] before preparing for a weekly training he conducts for his staff during the winter months.

Describing himself as being pulled in three main directions at any given time—being a policy and program manager; a telemarketer, email checker, and customer service representative; and a manager of 18 fulltime staff—Neese still fills in as a sanitation worker on his crews as needed, having begun as a sanitation worker his first two years in the business.

Whenever you may feel the weight of the recycling crisis on your shoulders, know that you are not alone. Somewhere … in Winchester, Virginia … there is a man with a superhero costume standing ready to recycle for his community. “It’s a fun position,” says Neese … and he really seems to mean it.



Click here to read the following article by Monica Boehringer on why it’s time to rethink recycling in Virginia



Want to “virtually” bump elbows with some of Hampton Roads recycling professionals?  Join us at our updated Virtual 2020 Annual Conference “Navigating Changes on the Horizon”, a series of webinars starting on August 13 through September 17, 2020.

Learn more about this existing conference by visiting our Annual Conference page here!

Article in The Roanoke Times December 12, 2020



Resourceful, Creative, Sustainable
Winning Ideas at Annual VRA Awards

Erica Carter (Awards Committee Chair), Jeff Blevins (Page County), Teresa Sweeney (VRA President), Helen Lee (City of Alexandria), Margaret Eldridge (VRA Executive Director), Russ Rainer (Goodwill of Central & Coastal Virginia) celebrate the 2019 VRA awards

Charlottesville, VANovember 7, 2019: The Virginia Recycling Association honored several exemplary waste reduction and recycling programs at its annual luncheon meeting on October 30, in Charlottesville.

Awards were given in three categories:

  • Show Me the Way – How do you explain recycling to your customers?
  • Lemonade – How have you made something wonderful from a bad situation?
  • Best in Show – How has your program made a difference in your community?

This year’s award winners were selected from 9 nominations and represented the best of recycling innovation, education, and community engagement from across Virginia.

Best in Show Winner, Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia

Goodwill was paying to have 250,000 pounds of books recycled each month, which was costing them money and seemed wasteful. They knew that there was a better way to process and distribute such a large volume of books and that there was value in the marketplace for these books.

In early 2017, Goodwill established a partnership with Henrico County public schools to supply books to students and families after seeing a news story requesting the donation of new and gently used books to support the school division’s new Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum Challenge in secondary schools.

Henrico County and Goodwill established a weekly opportunity for school personnel to visit the Goodwill headquarters and “dive for books”. School staff sort through thousands of books, selecting those that will be utilized and loved at their schools. Goodwill supplies bins and assistance in loading books into personal vehicles.

These free books are now being enjoyed by students in elementary, middle and high schools; Henrico Book Nooks (free libraries) around the county; and the Department of Family Engagement bus which provides giveaways to neighborhoods and community, civic, and school events.

This free program supplies a reliable source of books to the families in most need and to teachers who have limited budgets for books. As of September 2019, this initiative has placed 148,931 free books into the hands of teachers, librarians, students, and families. This is the best kind of recycling result.

Show Me the Way Award Winner, Recycle Right Alexandra

The City of Alexandria developed an online, interactive game that teaches children ages 7 and up to properly sort their recyclables, yard waste, and trash using City services. Players match discarded household items (paint, food waste, aluminum cans, etc.) with the appropriate City service and build their own digital Alexandria park in the process.

After completing all five levels of the game, players can print out a certificate of achievement. Residents who snapped a picture of themselves with their certificate and shared it on social media were entered into a contest to win items to help them reduce and divert waste (reusable tote bag, reusable water bottle, or a compost caddy).

Implementing this sorting game was also a short-term goal that was identified as part of the City’s newly adopted WasteSmart Strategic Plan.  The sorting game also features analytics in the back end, which provide statistics on the number of game plays, number of completed games, number of certificates printed, and a list of the most misunderstood materials. For example, the City found that one of the most misunderstood material that was incorrectly sorted in the game was loose shredded paper. The analytics showed that 33% of players thought this material could be recycled, when in fact, it should go into the trash bin. This type of data helps the City target specific outreach messages on contamination and how residents can Recycle Right in Alexandria.

Lemonade Winner, Page County

The Page County Solid Waste Department had to take a hard look at its recycling program when recycling markets began to deteriorate in 2018.

The Department had been spending $34,000 per year to deliver the recyclables collected at four County drop off locations to the nearest Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), consuming most of the revenue generated by sales of those recyclables.

In 2018, Department staff decided to change the program from a small recycling program with large transportation costs to a large revenue generator with minimal costs. By purchasing and installing a used baler in their maintenance garage, they were able to eliminate all transportation and delivery costs.

Since Page County started baling their own cardboard, comingled plastic, mixed paper, and aluminum cans, they have increased the amount of materials recycled, reduced costs and increased revenue.

“The Virginia Recycling Association is proud to shine a spotlight on the imaginative and sustainable recycling and waste reduction programs that Virginia organizations have to offer our communities,” said Teresa Sweeny, President of the VRA. “On behalf of our board, I also want to commend our other nominees for their hard work and determination to make recycling easier to understand and accessible to everyone.”

Applications for 2020 VRA Awards will be accepted in beginning in August 2020.
Visit for more information.