Virginia Recycling Association

VRA Says, “It’s Time to Rethink Recycling in Virginia”

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of funding, high levels of contamination, limited facilities for processing non-hazardous recyclable materials, and outdated legislation have placed many recycling programs and processing facilities in Virginia at risk of suspension or closure.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 Current legislation is outdated and does not provide adequate funding or incentives needed to support recycling infrastructure.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.