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Chesterfield to stay in recycling program through Dec.

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 4/19/2019, 6 a.m.
The Richmond region’s recycling program will remain intact at least through December. Chesterfield County is still mulling its future with ...

The Richmond region’s recycling program will remain intact at least through December.

Chesterfield County is still mulling its future with the program and has agreed to participate for the rest of the year in the 10-year-old operation run by the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority.

Chesterfield County and 12 other jurisdictions in the Richmond area are members of the authority.

That’s temporary good news for Richmond and Henrico County, which, with Chesterfield, provide most of the 48,000 tons of paper, metal and other recyclable material the program collects and who might have to pay more to keep the program going if Chesterfield stops participating.

However, the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors made it clear last week that, no matter what, there would be no increase in the $231,000 annual subsidy the county provides to the CVWMA, regardless of how much costs increase or the price of recycled materials falls due to market changes.

“I don’t know what exactly will happen if the county pulls out of the program,” stated Kimberly A. “Kim” Hynes, executive director of CVWMA.

“But I believe recycling will fall off if you take away the convenience” of regular pickups and leave it to residents “to contact a hauler,” she continued.

In her view, the private sector cannot match the price that CVWMA has been able to achieve through the pickup service it provides every two weeks to about 256,000 households in the region. She said some communities in Virginia are paying $90 a ton to process recyclable material, compared with CVWMA’s current maximum of $50-per-ton processing cost plus collection.

Chesterfield, like Richmond, charges a fee to each household to largely cover the cost of recycling. Henrico picks up the cost as part of its solid waste program.

Before 2018, Chesterfield, like the other participants in the program, actually paid far less. It received rebates from CVWMA’s contractor, TFC Recycling, for the tonnage of recyclable material that was collected because prices were strong.

In 2018, for example, the county received $151,169 in rebates, cutting its actual subsidy to about $80,000.

However, those rebates ended last March when China, the biggest market for recycled material, essentially stopped buying, creating a huge surplus. China set a tough new standard that required any material purchased to be clean of contamination. Virtually no recyclers around the globe could meet China’s new 0.5 percent contamination standard.

Since China’s action, the price of recycled cardboard has dropped more than 70 percent, and prices of other materials also have fallen sharply.

CVWMA renegotiated its contract with TFC and raised the contribution the seven localities participating in recycling would need to pay to support the program. TFC previously received $6.2 million a year, Ms. Hynes said, and the revamped contract provided about $8 million, a $1.77 million increase, to allow the company to keep operating its Chester recycling plant. That boosted costs for participating localities.

Like Richmond and Henrico, Chesterfield’s new contribution rate topped $500,000 effective July 1, 2018, the start of the 2019 budget year.