the big here: trash & recycling

Thanh -- July 23rd, 2007

A while back finnegan posted a quiz called “the big here,” which included several questions about the local environment. And then I posted answers to questions about water, and finnegan followed up with answers to questions about electricity. Now I’m back and I’ve got questions and answers on trash & recycling. Enjoy!

12) Where does your garbage go? My garbage is put out on the curb and is picked up by City Sanitation staff, a division of the Public Works Department. My garbage can go to one of two places depending on what kind of trash I left out and on what day. If its regular garbage, put out on regular trash day, it will go to the City’s Resource Recovery Facility on Driver Dr, next to JMU campus where it will be burned to provide steam energy for JMU’s campus. The leftover ashes from this burning process, which has been reduced to less than 50% volume (I think 30% volume) is then sent to the Rockingham County Landfill where it is used as cover. Now, if I left bulk garbage  (refridgerator, couches, old and dried waterbase paint cans, etc) out on my designated Wednesday (happens once a month), my garbage will probably get taken directly to the landfill or managed appropriately by City staff. If I had a household hazardous waste, such as gasoline, paint thinners, oil-based paints, etc I would take this waste to the City-County’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day, which happens once a year. At this collection, household hazardous waste is collected and properly managed/disposed of so chemicals don’t harm the environment or public health. If I were the kind of person who throws garbage out of my car window (which I am not), my garbage will probably sit along side the street for a while until the next rain and get carried away into a storm sewer curb inlet, through some pipes under the roadway towards the closest stream and then likely into the Shenandoah River. If my garbage is lucky, as its laying on the side of the street it might get picked up by a City Street Sweeper and then deposited until it is used for cover at the County Landfill. Hopefully my garbage doesn’t get eaten by some animal that may get sick by it. In my home, biodegradable garbage, like kitchen waste, goes into the compost pile that I have built using old pallets and placed in my backyard.

14) Who uses the paper/plastic you recycle from your neighborhood? In my area, office paper is not collected from residential areas by the City. However, the City does collect office paper from businesses and does collect newspaper, magazines, telephone books and #1 and #2 plastics from residents and businesses alike (Complete list of accepted recyclables). (Office and miscellaneous papers are burned at the Resource Recovery Facility and turned into energy.) Once the City collects the recycable materials from my home and the homes of my neighbors, the materials are sorted, and then sold to dealers and companies who can use them in a variety of products (see: What Happens to Our Recyclables? – City page). What I really should do in addition to recycling is make a more conscious effort to buy products made from recycled materials to close the recycling loop. First things first though, I should reduce the amount of materials I use, and when I need it, buy recycled materials. Amazingly plastic milk jugs can be made into carpet fibres for people’s homes, and trust me, it really feels like carpet. Paper can even be made into a mulch like material and hydroseeding.

If anyone has more questions about trash pick up and recycling, please visit these City webpages or call Public Works at 434-5928. Thanks!

13 Responses to “the big here: trash & recycling”

  1. Hey Thanh, I really love reading your posts. Your writing is like floating down a river; you know where it takes you but it’s so pleasant you don’t dare miss it.

    I’m glad you put so much thought into your writing…it makes me happy!

  2. Thanh says:

    Thanks Frank. :)

  3. Benny Neal says:

    Thanh,
    Have you ever thought of writing books?

  4. David Troyer says:

    I wish more was done with cardboard in the city. While we reuse a decent amount of cardboard at my place of employment, we trash quite a bit as well. I know surrounding businesses do the same but no one wants the eyesore of another dumpster. sigh.

  5. I found that odd. Not recycling the cardboard when I seperated it, but then found out the city doesn’t do it. We try to encourage other businesses that share our dumpster to at least “break down” the boxes but it seems that it must be too much trouble for them. I know we receive almost all of our supplies with the exception of chicken wings in cardboard boxes and they all go to the landfill.

  6. Thanh says:

    I’m not sure I understand Frank’s comment – but I do want to make it clear that businesses within City limits can recycle cardboard with the City. The City Sanitation Staff will come pick that up and the cardboard gets sold to a company that uses it as backing material in gypsum drywall. The City does not, however, currently collect cardboard material from residential homes for several reasons, some of which include – there’s too much of it and the City does not have enough manpower/equipment to collect it all, oftentimes cardboard from residential homes include dirty pizza boxes or other dirty items that cannot be recycled,… but on the upside, although recycling may be a better alternative, the cardboard doesn’t go to total waste if its sent to the Resource Recovery Facility (burned for energy). If you have a large amount of cardboard at home that resulted from a move you can call Public Works to schedule a special pickup for your cardboard. Thanks and kudos to everyone who reuses their cardboard, recycles it, and encourages others to do the same! I think it should become a social norm and expectation for people to recycle.

  7. Tina says:

    Frank,
    I didn’t realize that the city collected cardboard from businesses. I do know that when I worked at Kate’s Natural Products (also on University Blvd.) there was a gentleman who used to pick up our cardboard. I assume he sold it to a recycler. If you’re interested, check with Ralph at the store to see if this guy’s still around.

  8. Thanh, I didn’t know the city would pickp our BUSINESS cardboard. I will call Nikki at Sanitation and find out what day they pick that up. They already get my bottles and cans on Wednesday morning.

    Thanks again for the info, I really had no idea tht they would collect the cardboard…of course not the wax boxes the WINGS or other chicken come in !

  9. AC says:

    Thanh, Thanks for the info regarding recycling! I had recently been wondering if I was including/not including the right plastics etc in my own bin. This information is extremely helpful. I didn’t want people to have to go to extra lengths sorting through my trash :)

  10. Thanh says:

    Just a thought and reminder: If you all wish to learn more about City departments and what services they provide, please sign up for the Citizen Academy. Applications are currently being accepted for this year’s class. http://www.harrisonburgva.gov/index.php?id=936 . finnegan previously posted about the class here: http://hburgnews.com/2007/06/26/citizen-academy-2/ I went through it last year, as an assistant to Miriam, and I had a great time and I definately learned a lot of cool things. Plus to get to visit some pretty neat facilities – the Resource Recovery Facility, the Recycling Center, the Drinking Water Treatment Facility, the Wastewater Treatment Facility, etc.

  11. linz says:

    My husband and I moved to a townhouse community that uses a dumpster instead of individual trash pickup. I called Public Works because I wasn’t sure what to do about recycling and they told me that volunteers would bring a city recycling bin to my house and pick up my recyclables once a week. Volunteers! I didn’t know that before and am now even more grateful for the service. Along with the bin they dropped off a great pamphlet detailing what can be recycled, when, and how. It’s a lot more than I thought. I think the same info is on the Public Works website.

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