recycling, stealing & fees

Brent Finnegan -- May 20th, 2008

Yesterday TV3 ran a story about stealing aluminum from residential recycling bins. The story claimed that, “the city makes money on the items it recycles, so if someone steals, that’s lost revenue for Harrisonburg.”

While it’s true that the city sells that used material to a recycling company, it’s not true that the city makes money on the program. The money coming in is less than the cost of the program.

Virginia cities are actually required by state law to recycle at least 25 percent of waste generated.

Last week, a DNR story stated, “The council also approved increases in water rates and the sewer authority fee, and initiated a $10 service fee for recycling for customers who do not have their trash picked up by the city.”

I asked Information Officer Miriam Dickler about that, and she clarified it with some additional info:

Beginning July 2008, all utility bill customers will notice a new feature on their bill. Instead of a refuse collection fee, there will be a Solid Waste Management fee. The Solid Waste Management fee helps subsidize the cost for curbside refuse collection and disposal plus recycling collection, handling and shipping. For customers who currently have city waste collection services nothing will change on the water bill except the language used to denote solid waste fees […]

There is no new fee or rate increase proposed for existing refuse customers. Residents that receive curbside pickup are currently paying $20.00 for refuse collection. For these residents the only change will be a change in nomenclature on the bill. After July there will be a Solid Waste Management fee instead of a refuse fee. The recycling program has been and will continue to be will be subsidized with funds from all customers regardless of whether they choose to recycle or not. […]

The City does allow apartment complexes and residents with private refuse collection service to “opt out” of paying the $10.00 per month fee, but must first meet the following requirements:

1. The complex must maintain a Solid Waste Management Plan approved by the City
2. Report on an annual basis solid waste tonnage disposed of
3. Reflect on an annual basis and certify that at least 25% of all solid waste disposed of was recycled

There’s a list of what can be recycled on the city website.

68 Responses to “recycling, stealing & fees”

  1. eso says:

    They told us way back in school that when government owns the “means of production” that was called Communism. Not Socialism. :-)

  2. David Troyer says:


    who is talking about owning “means of production”??? random.

  3. JGFitzgerald says:

    If memory serves, CC, council started talking in 2001 about the long-range need to let the garbage and water fees creep up, particularly for the South River water line. But so it goes. The then-rogue mayor said the high school was for sale three years before the deal went through, and people still acted surprised when it happened.

    ETA: Point being, the newspaper lands on the lawn and most people don’t see it. The water bill lands in the mailbox, and then they notice it. Not sure if I made that clear.

  4. charlie chenault says:

    Ger – Great reply, and I deserve it. I have not laughed so hard in a long time. Joe – you are right, and congrats on the vice-chairmanship. Me thinks the Democratic jaugernaught has left the station.
    I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend, and I will see you around town – Charlie

  5. Thanh says:

    eso, you said: “As it is, I’m perfectly happy to keep sending my trash to the dump. If there was some benefit to me, cost savings, maybe I’d consider it.”

    The cost of maintaining and of long-term monitoring of a landfill and closed landfill are very expensive. I believe landfills must be monitored for a minimum of 60 years after they are closed for air/gas and groundwater contamination. Landfills are very expensive, which is why private waste companies that pick up trash from apartments/HOA neighborhoods don’t own any of their own, they send their waste to the County landfill (which the City shares the cost for, and will share the monitoring costs for in the future). I guess what I’m saying is, I think the costs are greater in the long term if we stopped recycling and just sent everything to the landfill, and the landfill will fill up faster, and then where will our trash go? Land is expensive, and there’s going to be less of it available (that’s not near neighbors, etc). I don’t have hard numbers, but I know that there is a greater cost savings to recycle and to pay the $10 fee for that service than it is to not recycle.

    Apartment complexes will be charged per unit.

  6. Thanh says:

    5 Important Reasons Why We Should Recycle

    Saves Natural Resources – By making products from recycled materials instead of virgin materials, we conserve land and reduce the need to drill for oil and dig for minerals. (When natural resources become scarce, we’ll experience an increase in the cost of our commodities.)

    Saves Energy – It usually takes less energy to make recycled products; recycled aluminum, for example, takes 95% less energy than new aluminum from bauxite ore. (Saving energy means cost savings passed onto you as the consumer.)

    Saves Clean Air and Water – In most cases, making products from recycled materials creates less air pollution and water pollution than making products from virgin materials.

    Saves Landfill Space – When the materials that you recycle go into new products, they don’t go into landfills or incinerators, so landfill space is conserved.

    Saves Money and Creates Jobs – The recycling process creates far more jobs than landfills or incinerators, and recycling can frequently be the least expensive waste management method for cities and towns.

  7. eso says:

    David Troyer:

    You know the comment about communism was a joke, right? That’s why it had a smiley face after it. Now I’m off to look for that lifeguard …

  8. eso says:

    Joe, Charlie, et al: While I have lived in this area all my life, I hadn’t lived in city limits until recently, so I haven’t followed the council actions long.

  9. charlie chenault says:

    Eso – First, welcome to the city. I would be happy to meet with you and catch you up. Lunches and early breakfasts are good.
    Thanks – Charlie

  10. David Troyer says:

    Sorry, eso, it was a late night :-)

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again that I believe the city has the most ground to gain in recycling numbers with businesses. I have seen a lot of glass, cardboard and paper make it to the dumpster because of a lack of incentive to do otherwise. That said, I have no idea what that incentive might look like.

  11. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    An update: the Harmony Heights POA (where I live) has chosen to go with a private company (Green Earth) for recycling. In addition to what the city recycles, we will also be able to recycle tin foil, small cardboard boxes like cereal boxes, and all types of plastic with recycle numbers on them (not just numbers 1 and 2).

    Kudos to Don Plank (our association manager with Coldwell Banker) and to the board of the POA for saving us money (we won’t have to pay the $10/month to the city) and for making it possible for us to easily recycle more types of items.

  12. Miriam says:

    I am glad something could be worked out for your area. Don is a great guy.

    To clarify one thing, you can recycle aluminum foil through the city’s recycling program.

    Also, I am genuinely curious about one thing. Is the Green Earth cost a total wash, or will your association fees pay for it? I guess what I’m asking is whether this is a free service that your waste management company provides of which you were previously unaware or if it is simply less of a cost to you than the fee from the city.

    And finally, if anyone has any questions about the city recycling program (or any other city issue for that matter), feel free to contact me by email ( or phone (540-432-7701)

  13. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Current association fees will cover it; I don’t know the specific deal they worked out (maybe Scott does?). I hope we can hit the 25% threshold…I guess we’ll have to see!

    Any word on the Citizen Academy, Miriam?

  14. Miriam says:

    I will open applications for the 2008 Citizen Academy in mid-July. The brochures (no longer year specific) are coming back from the printer around then as well.

    It will be held on consecutive Thursday nights beginning September 4 and ending November 20.

    A release will be sent out once I get the applications up and distributed to city departments.

  15. Jeremy — someone on your POA’s board (or Don) can probably provide the details of how the costs came out. I’ll ask Don about it.

  16. Don says:

    If you compare the charges on an annual basis, the recycling charge from Green Earth comes to $78/year while the City’s is $120/year. In the case of the association Jeremy referred to, the current assessments paid by owners in that association are sufficient to cover the extra cost, thus the decision by the board to pay for the recycling charges.

  17. Thanh says:

    Here’s an article from this week’s Rocktown Weekly about Bars/Restaurants in Harrisonburg recycling, what they recycle, and how much.

  18. Josh says:

    I wonder what impact the “trash crash” is having, if any, on the city’s recycling program?

    Back at Junk Value, Recyclables Are Piling Up –

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