Loudoun County government published a press release Friday reminding residents and businesses that “glass food and beverage containers continue to be recycled in the county.”
Recycling collectors who receive a permit from the county to operate as “major” collectors are required to collect glass containers for recycling, along with cardboard and paperboard, steel or tin cans, aluminum cans, newspapers and magazines, plastic beverage and detergent containers and yard waste.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) first raised concerns in October that, while Loudouners were putting recyclables into the county’s single-stream recycling program as they should, the glass items were contaminating other recyclables, such as when broken glass becomes embedded in cardboard. Some residents have worried that means those recyclables could end up in a landfill.
According to county staff reports, glass makes up about 20 percent of the recyclables collected in Loudoun. In 2018, Loudoun collected about 112,000 tons of recycling.
After China–formerly the world’s largest importer of recyclables—tightened import restrictions, the cost to recycle rose. In particular, the cost of transporting recyclables and sorting out glass means the cost of recycling can outweigh the value of the reclaimed materials.
In December, county supervisors voted to use $218,000 of the county budget’s projected $93 million year-end fund balance to test out a separate glass recycling program, collecting glass in separate bins from other recyclables at the nine county drop-off centers. They also directed County Administrator Tim Hemstreet to include another $145,000 in his proposal for next year’s budget.
The project will involve hiring a new maintenance worker to manage the recycling sites and could help create outreach and education on how and where to recycle.
It will not include separate bins for curbside pickup, which is handled by private contractors.
Residents who do not have curbside recycling service can recycle their glass containers at one of thecounty-operated recycling drop-off centers located throughout the county.
Before being recycled, all glass containers should be empty and relatively clean, with little or no food residue or liquids, and should be placed loosely in the recycling bin, not in plastic bags. Taking these steps, according to the county, will help reduce the contamination of glass containers that has led some local governments, like Prince William County, to stop recycling glass.
Glass containers currently collected in Loudoun County through curbside recycling services are taken to material recovery facilities where all materials are sorted and prepared for shipping and recycling.
Much of the glass collected for recycling in Loudoun is crushed to be used in Fairfax County as an aggregate in construction projects or daily cover in the landfill. Loudoun, Brown said, does not use that aggregate in its landfill because it has enough dirt to use.