Chesapeake grapples with influx of discards at city recycling drop-off sites – The Virginian-Pilot

2022-07-02 02:59:53 By : Ms. Cathleen Chen

For almost two months in some Chesapeake neighborhoods, recycling bins weren't collected. (Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot)

CHESAPEAKE — When Joleen Zackowski and her husband drove to the city’s new recycling drop-off site at the central library Friday morning, they found dumpsters so full that they could only leave a few pieces of cardboard. Several other cars arrived too, but there was no room for more recycling, so they left.

Chesapeake’s blue bins may be emptied after two months of recycling pickup delays, but residents came across an unexpected frustration Friday: At least one of the new drop-off sites was so overfilled with recyclables that some residents weren’t able to leave their materials. The city says a stockpiling of recyclables might have contributed to the heavy volume and that it’s learning to handle the flow of discards.

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Zackowski, a 67-year-old adjunct biology professor, and her husband ended up at a drop-off site for the city’s former recycling vendor, TFC Recycling, where they unloaded their accumulation.

The city said it would finish picking up residents’ recyclables Thursday after recently terminating its contract with TFC Recycling, which had failed to perform curbside pickups for two months, largely due to a driver shortage. But on the city’s Facebook page, several residents commented that their recycling still hasn’t been collected.

Part of the city’s solution to the messy situation was to discard all the recyclables as trash, which didn’t sit well with some, including Zackowski.

“There was no way I was leaving it out as trash,” said Zackowski, an ardent recycling supporter.

[  After ‘perfect storm’ upended Chesapeake’s recycling program, residents still frustrated over weeks of failed pickups ]

When she went by the library site later in the day, however, the dumpsters were overflowing.

Elizabeth Vaughn, a spokeswoman for the city, said some residents brought recyclables Friday because they didn’t want them to just be collected as trash. And she thinks others simply had an accumulation because their surplus recycling didn’t fit into the bins that the city has already collected.

She also said the city is still learning how to manage unpredictable recycling drop-off loads.

Friday was the first official day for the drop-off sites, but the city’s new contractor, GFL Environmental, emptied all the dumpsters Thursday night because people had already started filling them. Public works employees are monitoring the seven sites, Vaughn said, and GFL will empty dumpsters when they get full. The city aims to set up a more regulated collection schedule in the future.

In an email, Jason Brown, customer service manager for the city’s public works department, said the city has asked for GFL to empty the recycling dumpsters on Friday, Saturday and Tuesday.

Vaughn said the city is glad the sites are being heavily used, but hope that people will only drop off items that can actually be recycled. She noted that putting the wrong things in recycling “is the downfall of every recycling program across the nation,” she said.

Zackowski said “in addition to their lack of environmental awareness and so blithely getting rid of recycling, I knew it was too much to hope” that they would be well-prepared for the start of the drop-off locations.

Noble Brigham,