VA Waste Services: waste not want not

Piles of cardboard, plastic bottles and aluminum cans clutter a huge open-sided warehouse on the grounds of Chesterfield’s largest landfill. These items, in addition to various metals, paper and glass are making their way to be recycled as they travel along conveyers at Virginia Waste Services’s (VWS) The Recycle Center.

“We have spent $2.5 million and are processing 100 tons per day,”said Michael Cole, sales manager for Shoosmith Bros. Landfill, Virginia Waste Services and The Recycle Center of the upgraded facility. “At full speed we could do as much as 400 tons per day.”

But it’s not your father’s waste or your waste for that matter; VWS gets the recyclable waste from large businesses and factories such as Dupont, RIC and VCU.

Cole called it “single-stream recycling;” in which all types of recylables are collected and processed. He said that by reducing waste, practicing conservation and allowing business to toss all recyclables into one container VWS is both doing the right thing and adding to the life of the landfill.

“Virginia Waste is taking a huge step to move into recycling at this level,” Cole said. “Recycling will add years to the landfill; we’re talking 50 maybe 60 years.”

As many as 15 “pickers” line the second level of the equipment containing 100s of feet of conveyors. Cardboard is sorted on the floor and can sometimes be already bundled but much of what makes it to the base of the landfill mountain is mixed and must be sorted by the equipment and the pickers.

Pickers pull out glass and plastic while at the end

of the conveyor, suction attached to ductwork sucks the aluminum cans from the conveyor and deposits them in a bin where they are gathered, compressed and paletted, ready for market. Cole said that VWS has an arrangement with Sonoco Recycling Inc., to purchased the VWS processed recycling. Sonoco had been a partner until VWS revamped the facility.

Cole said that now the facility can process not only cardboard and paper, as it did when it opened in June 2011 but all recyclables that are dry; that is, not household waste that can have wet garbage mixed in with the dry waste.

“We call the wet stuff ‘dirty murph,’” Cole said. Meaning it has leachate; officially defined as the liquid that drains or “leaches” from a landfill or wet trash. The recycling facility doesn’t take material that may contain leachate.

The revamped facility is Phase I of the VWS recycling project. Phase II will be an expansion so they could accept more material and “Phase III, very far in the future, is when we can recycle all trash and make sure that the affluent is clean enough to release into a stream, although we continue to get clean water discharge awards,” Cole said.
In 2011 Kelly Fletcher, vice president of VWS said, “If we’re going to stay in the landfill business, we’re going to have to do things that are sustainable.”

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