A big change is coming to the recycling programs in Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County.

Starting April 1, Sonoco Recycling in Fishersville, the area's sole recycling processor, will no longer accept plastic or glass.

The county, however, will continue to use glass as cover material at the Augusta Regional Landfill.

Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County sent out press releases on Thursday detailing the changes.

03/21/2019 City of Staunton Press Release:

Starting April 1, Staunton’s recycling program will undergo some significant changes.

The area’s sole recycling processor, Sonoco Recycling of Fishersville, has informed the City of Staunton—and neighboring localities Waynesboro and Augusta County—that it will no longer accept plastic and glass.

As a result, the City must adjust its recycling program beginning April 1.

Staunton residents should prepare for the following changes:

  • The City will no longer provide curbside collection of plastic of any sort.
  • The City will continue to collect glass curbside; however, it will be crushed and beneficially utilized as refuse cover at the Augusta Regional Landfill.

“We recognize that these changes are unfavorable and will be a challenge for our residents who are committed to being good stewards of the environment,” said City Manager Steve Owen. “They also don’t align with the longstanding values of our city to encourage and support sustainability. We’re experiencing this predicament along with many localities across the nation. The recycling industry is failing and, in turn, forcing recycling processors like Sonoco to either pass along significantly increased costs to us or eliminate the collection of certain recyclable goods. We’re now in the unfortunate position of having to make substantial and undesirable changes to our recycling program.”

In February, City Council directed staff to close the recycling center at Gypsy Hill Park, which will occur by the end of the month. The City is closing the park recycling center due to skyrocketing costs to rent collection containers and have them emptied throughout each month. Sonoco implemented a new rate structure last August, resulting in additional annual charges to the City of about $20,000 to support the recycling center.

Residents who relied on the recycling center are encouraged to drop items in recycling containers at the regional landfill instead, keeping in mind that plastic will no longer be accepted for recycling there as well.

“City staff is in the process of examining alternative recycling solutions that provide opportunities for residents to recycle as much as possible at as minimal a cost as possible,” Owen said. “In the meantime, if market conditions improve, and our full recycling program again becomes sustainable, we’re prepared to reevaluate our options and broaden the program.”

Why is Recycling Becoming Expensive and Challenging?

In case you haven’t heard, the recycling industry is in a tailspin. 

The reason? In a nutshell, China no longer wants America’s trash. Much of the United States' reclaimed waste is shipped overseas and, until recently, was mostly accepted by China. But China put new restrictions on imported waste last year, which have led to a continuous decline in demand.

On top of China’s rejection of recyclable materials, a few other factors have contributed to the weakening of the recycling industry:

  • low oil prices have made it cheaper to produce new plastic bottles, so manufacturers have less incentive to use reclaimed plastic;
  • packaging producers have been able to make cans and bottles thinner, resulting in a significantly lower need for raw materials;
  • circulation of print newspaper has plummeted, so the recycling industry has lost its primary customer for reclaimed paper fiber and their primary source of incoming recyclable material; and
  • there is now very little demand for recycled glass.

All of these factors have resulted in a stressed recycling market that is leaving cities nationwide in a dilemma. Now, leaders in localities across the country are left to figure out if they can afford to salvage their recycling programs or find alternative solutions.

03/21/2019 City of Waynesboro Press Release:

Effective March 30, the city is suspending collection of plastics at its drop-off center located at N. Delphine and 6th Street. The program modification is necessitated by a lack of markets for plastic recyclable material.

Significant changes in the markets, including international markets, for plastic and glass have occurred in the last year. At this time, it is nearly impossible to identify a sustainable outlet with an acceptable tolerance for contamination typically associated with a municipal recycling program. A reliable demand for collected material is essential for the success of the city’s recycling program.

While markets for glass have also declined significantly, the city will continue to accept glass at its drop-off center. In the near term, glass will be utilized as cover material at the Augusta Regional Landfill. This strategy will reduce reliance on natural cover material, dirt and soil of varying grades of quality.

There is no ability at this time to forecast when collection of plastic will resume.

The city’s recycling program is supported through a contract with a private vendor who provides collection bins, hauling of collected material and who is responsible for the ultimatum sale of the material. For much its history, the program operated at a break-even status, occasionally realizing small profits, depending on the market for various collected materials. Prices for all materials have fluctuated over time. Since the recent decline in markets, the program has required increasing financial support which is provided by the city’s Garbage Fund. The city is presently conducting a comprehensive study of its solid waste programs and services including recycling. The study is intended to inform decisions regarding programs, services, and the quality and economic delivery of them.

The city very much appreciates the well-established habits of recycling and environmental stewardship demonstrated by Waynesboro residents and our neighbors. It is important to be clear with all concerned citizens about the status of our program and the disposition of collected material.

Please continue recycling but please do not bring plastics to the center. Plastic cannot be accepted even for disposal in the landfill.

03/21/2019 Augusta County Press Release:

Significant changes occurring to Augusta County’s recycling program.

  • March 28th will be the last day plastics will be accepted at the Augusta Regional Landfill Public Use Site.
  • Glass will be hauled from County dumpsites to the regional landfill where it will provide a beneficial cover.

This change is in the wake of the recent decision of Sonoco Recycling in Fishersville to no longer accept glass and commingled plastics effective April 1st.

Augusta County and neighboring localities were notified of this change in a letter dated March 1, 2019.

“It is unfortunate that recycling market conditions have caused us to no longer be able to accept plastics for recycling”, said County Administrator Timothy Fitzgerald.

“Citizens should know that Augusta County is committed to our well established recycling program and if market conditions change in the future we will re-evaluate our options”.

No changes are being made to mixed paper, cardboard, metal cans, or aluminum cans at this time.

For further information please contact the County Administration office at 540-245-5610.