Recycling in Harrisonburg Has a Cost

By: Jarrod Aldom
By: Jarrod Aldom

Tuesday is Earth Day. The city of Harrisonburg has a recycling program in place to help protect our resources. But it comes at a price.

Recycling. You hear a lot about it, but not many people actually "know" anything about it. The city of Harrisonburg spends almost $682,000 on the collecting, sorting, and disposal of recycled materials. But they only make about $60,000 to $70,000 by doing it.

"It's not profitable, not for someone like us," said Meki Shifflett, Sanitation Supervisor for the Dept. of Public Works. "You have to be able to market what you pick up, you can't just store it somewhere."

Each one of the recycling bales weighs between 800 and 1,000 pounds. Public works processes 1,500 tons of recyclables a year. Shifflett says it's worth it just to save the landfill space.

"It depends on how you look at it," said Shifflett. "Do we want to save the environment? Do we want to dig holes in the ground and stick it down there? Do we wanna just throw it away? What do you want to do with it?"

People in Virginia are not required to recycle. But state law says localities must recycle at least 25-percent of the trash they pick up. Residential recycling is only a small part of that.

"We also do Christmas trees, we grind those up so we do have some yard debris that's in that," explained Shifflett. "We also have some asphalt that we reuse."

Shifflett says there are many reasons why people recycle.

"Some to save land space," said Shifflett. "Some to reduce our dependence on foreign imports. Some to just do our part in the community effort. Whatever it is, I think it's the right thing to do. Makes you feel good."

Shifflett estimates that 75 percent of people in Harrisonburg recycle on a regular basis.


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