Shenandoah County stops collecting a lot of plastic for recycling

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SHENANDOAH COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — In 2019, Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, Waynesboro, Staunton, and Augusta County all made changes to the way they recycle.

Plastics numbers 1 and 2 will still be accepted but not numbers 3 through 7.

Each locality, due to the end of plastic collection by Sonoco Recycling, a major recycling processor for the area, either stopped collecting plastic altogether or ended collection of everything but #1 and #2 plastic.

This week, Shenandoah County announced it will also be making changes and will no longer accept plastics three through seven as a part of its recycling program.

Patrick Felling, Director of Solid Waste Management for Shenandoah County, said the change is because the vendor they send the plastic to can no longer accept it.

The United States sends most of its recycled waste overseas. In 2018, China implemented new restrictions on imported waste that included recycled plastic. This caused a low demand for waste and increased the cost of the plastic to be processed.

Felling said they were able to recycle for an extra year with their vendor because of the long relationship they've had.

"They were basically giving us extra flexibility to continue to send those materials that we knew had low to no value," Felling said. "But it got to the point where we were sending them types of plastic that they had no way to get rid of."

In 2019, the county collected close to 85 tons of plastics of all types. Now, the materials the county can no longer recycle will end up in their landfill.

Steve Shaffer, a Woodstock resident who visits the recycling center frequently, feels in a way, it goes against the purpose of recycling.

"I recycle because I wanted to reuse as much as we can, and secondly, to reduce the amount that goes into the landfill," Shaffer said.

Shaffer said he understands what's happening with where the plastic goes and hopes sometime in the future, things will change again.

"In my opinion, it's not going to change that much, but in the end, it comes down to the end-user and what can the county sell," Shaffer said.

All other recycling programs will continue, including cardboard, paper, glass, aluminum, and other scrap metals.