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



Article in The Roanoke Times December 12, 2020



From The Virginian-Pilot:

A few years ago when you tossed your cardboard boxes from Amazon into the recycling bin, there’s a good chance they eventually traveled thousands of miles and half a world away to China.

That changed early last year. China stopped taking most of those materials and the recycling industry entered a tailspin as the world’s largest market for recycled commodities all but closed. Prices plunged and with them, recyclers’ revenue.

In Virginia, as elsewhere, some businesses that haul or process our waste have gone bankrupt, closed or moved. Some cities have had to cancel their curbside recycling programs — meaning those materials are now going to the dump.

The commonwealth is working to recover. Hampton Roads, too, has had to adapt.

Read more of the article…..



From Recycling Today

VRA Awards honor waste reduction and recycling programs

Recycle Right Alexandria and Page County among the winners.

November 7, 2019

The Virginia Recycling Association (VRA) honored several waste reduction and recycling programs at its annual luncheon meeting Oct. 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 nine nominations and represented the best of recycling innovation, education and community engagement from across Virginia, according to a VRA news release.

Recycle Right Alexandria, Show Me the Way award winner

Alexandria, Virginia, developed an online, interactive game that teaches children ages seven and up to properly sort their recyclables, yard waste and trash using city services. Players match discarded household items, including paint, food waste and aluminum cans, 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, including a 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 provides the city analytics, including the number of game plays, number of completed games, number of certificates printed and a list of the most misunderstood materials.

The city found that one of the most misunderstood materials that was incorrectly sorted in the game was loose shredded paper. The analytics showed 33 percent 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.

Page County, Lemonade winner

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

The department was spending $34,000 per year to deliver recyclables collected at four county drop-off locations to the nearest material recovery facility (MRF).

In 2018, 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, the county was able to eliminate all transportation and delivery costs.

Since Page County started baling its own cardboard, commingled plastic, mixed paper and aluminum cans, the county increased the amount of materials recycled, reduced costs and increased revenue.

Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia, Best in Show winner

Goodwill, which was paying to have 250,000 pounds of books recycled each month, knew 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.

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, VRA says.

Charlottesville, VANovember 5, 2019: Virginia Recycling Association (VRA) members expressed their shared priorities by approving five new policy statements at VRA’s annual meeting on October 30 in Charlottesville:

  • Supporting the Businesses Behind the Bin policy- acknowledges the economic value of recycling created by the many businesses that haul, sort and process recyclables and use these materials as feedstock to manufacture new products.
  • Materials Collection policy – supports recycling collection systems that optimize the value and utilization of recyclable materials as marketable commodities to be used as manufacturing feedstock.
  • Glass policy – recognizes glass as a perpetually recyclable commodity that requires the development of regional processing facilities and end markets for it to be successfully recycled in Virginia.
  • Electronic Waste Recycling policy – calls for an update to legislation to increase the safe disposal, recovery and recycling of electronics
  • Plastic Bags Policy – supports giving local government the authority to impose a ban or tax on certain plastic bags.

VRA works to inform the public of the importance of solid waste management by recycling as an essential part of our community infrastructure. Lack of funding, high levels of contamination, limited facilities for processing non-hazardous recyclable materials, and outdated legislation have placed many recycling programs and processing facilities in Virginia at risk of suspension or closure. Without appropriate regulation, public education, and economic development of domestic markets, millions of tons of recyclables will be thrown away in landfills, wasting resources that could fuel manufacturing. VRA will continue developing policies that address current issues with recycling.

VRA members are calling for a review and update of the Virginia Waste Management Act of (1986). Current legislation is outdated and does not provide adequate funding or incentives needed to support recycling infrastructure.  In addition, better coordination is needed to track recyclable material tonnages in the Commonwealth.  Instead, it lumps an industry that contributes $1.7 billion and over 8,000 jobs to the Virginia economy under the heading of “litter control.”  VRA wants to work with Virginia legislators to develop an effective, economic and sustainable statewide strategy for the management of recyclable materials.

Recycling is a commodity traded in the global market, just like soy beans or wheat. The U.S. used to sell over $6 billion of recyclable materials to China annually for use in manufacturing. However, since China banned certain imports of recyclable materials in early 2018, recycling processors have been searching for domestic markets. VRA members want to partner with stakeholders, such as state and local economic development offices, municipal governments, manufacturing associations, and recycling processors to encourage, stimulate, and support development and expansion of business opportunities for the processing and sale of the state’s recyclables for use as resource for domestic manufacturing.

Merely having a 25 percent recycling rate as a state requirement does not help our economy, our environment or our recycling programs succeed. Virginia needs economic development support to build recycling infrastructure; a coordinated, statewide outreach program to educate the public on the basics of recycling; and updated legislation that reflects the realities of recycling today, and clear messaging and information to help the public to better understand what to recycle, how to prepare it for recycling and where it needs to be taken to get it recycled correctly.

VRA members have the knowledge and desire to work with other stakeholders to implement these changes to move recycling from the bin to a thriving and sustainable resource in Virginia.