Provided by Prince William County Solid Waste Division
Prince William County increased its recycling rate to 38.2 percent for 2019. This is almost a five percent increase from the rate in 2018. The Virginia Department of Environment Quality (DEQ) confirmed this rate in September 2020. The percentage increase is the highest the County has achieved since 2016.
Statutory recycling goals in the Commonwealth of Virginia are somewhat complicated. While the state is comprised of approximately 71 solid waste planning districts, only 17 of those districts, with populations above 100,000, are required to annually report recycling information. Based upon the criteria established by the Commonwealth of Virginia, Prince William County exceeded its mandated 25 percent recycling rate again in 2019. The County has done this every year since mandatory recycling rates took effect in the early 1990s.
The recycling rate is a measure of the materials diverted for reuse, recycling, or composting from the waste stream compared to materials that go into to the trash. Regular trash is buried in the County’s sanitary landfill located on Dumfries Road or combusted at the Fairfax County I-95 Energy/Resource Recovery Facility in Lorton. Items diverted for recycling and composting are sorted, processed, and converted into materials which can be returned to commercial enterprise to produce new products.
The waste import restrictions imposed by China and other countries in early 2018 had a significant impact on the processing of recyclables worldwide. In an effort to reduce the burden on local haulers and processors, Prince William County implemented new recycling guidelines to help reduce contamination, and limit collected material to items that are marketable.
In March 2019, Prince William County asked residents to only recycle #1 and #2 plastic bottles, jugs and jars, and to no longer put glass in the regular recycling bin. Residents can now bring glass containers to the Prince William County Landfill or Balls Ford Road Compost Facility’s purple bins, which are designated for glass recycling. They can also put glass in the regular household trash along with any plastics numbered #3-#7.
Scott MacDonald is the County’s recycling manager. MacDonald said, “While the recycling rate saw a significant increase, this increase had more to do with declines in the amount of trash received versus increases in actual recycling activity in the County. Recycling has essentially been flat for the past decade.” One reason is “Prince William County, unlike other counties in Northern Virginia, does not require source-separation of yard waste.” Yard waste makes up about 15 percent of the material going into the landfill, according to a 2014 waste audit. “We need to get that yard waste out of our landfill and divert it to the compost facility at Balls Ford Road, where it can be used to make compost and other soil-amendment products,” MacDonald said.
Balls Ford Road Facility
Previously, the County’s compost facility on Balls Ford Road did not have sufficient capacity to handle the County’s yard waste. That changed with the recent expansion of the compost facility. Now, the County has the capacity to compost its yard waste and hopes to initiate a seasonal yard waste collection program later this year that would take effect next fall. In addition to increasing the recycling rate, diverting yard waste to the compost facility will also save landfill space and decrease methane gas, which is a major contributor of greenhouse gases.
Prince William County families, businesses, schools, organizations, and the recycling markets all play a crucial part in the County’s recycling rate. “We are fortunate to have two material recovery facilities, as well as metal recyclers in our area. These businesses are prime examples of the benefits recycling provides communities,” said MacDonald. Overall, the County seems to be headed in the right direction with recycling, but there are more opportunities to improve with some simple changes.
For additional information on what you can do to reduce your waste footprint and recycle correctly, please visit pwcgov.org/trashandrecycling.