Franklin to end recycling

Published 9:22 pm Monday, March 8, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


Franklin will end curbside recycling collection effective May 28.

The city currently contracts with Bay Disposal & Recycling for curbside pickup of trash and recyclables — the latter being collected every other Thursday for residents north of Armory Drive and every other Friday for those south of the thoroughfare.

“Due to changes in the international market, there’s not a stream for the items collected in the blue can to actually be recycled,” said City Manager Amanda Jarratt.

As The New York Times reports, prior to 2017, much of the recyclables American municipalities collected would eventually be shipped to China for processing. That year, China announced it no longer wanted to import “foreign garbage,” and since Jan. 1, 2018, has banned the import of various types of plastic and paper, and tightened the standards for materials it will accept. While some waste management companies have arranged to send their recyclables to domestic processing plants or to other countries, others have been unable to find an alternative to the Chinese market.

A memorandum from her to the members of Franklin’s City Council claims most of the items Bay collects are not actually repurposed, but rather landfilled at the Southeastern Public Service Authority’s landfill in Suffolk, or incinerated at the Wheelabrator waste-to-energy power plant in Portsmouth. Bay, however, has disputed the allegation.

According to Brandon Newsome, customer service supervisor and spokesman for Bay, the company sends roughly 30% of the recyclables it collects throughout Hampton Roads to Wheelabrator. The remaining 70% goes to a processing facility.

“We take whatever we can to a processor and if they cannot accept it, the material will go to Wheelabrator,” Newsome said.

None of the recycling ends up in the SPSA landfill, “as I understand the information that was provided to me,” Newsome said.

The city has budgeted $152,150 for recycling for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, and would use the resulting savings from ending curbside pickup to supplement its general fund, Jarratt’s memo states.

The discontinuation of curbside recycling in Franklin will only impact the blue containers issued to residents. The green ones, intended for yard waste, will continue to be picked up as scheduled, as will the cardboard recycling containers located in the downtown area.

“That’s managed by a separate company, TFC, and there is a market for the recycling of cardboard,” Jarratt said.

State law currently requires regional solid waste planning units to recycle at least 25% of their member localities’ waste streams, with oversight from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. In 2020, the Southeastern Public Service Authority, which spans eight localities including Franklin, reported a regional rate of 35.9% — giving Franklin some leeway in reducing its contribution without risking the region falling below the mandatory minimum.

But that’s also “why it’s critical we maintain the green waste recycling piece,” Jarratt said. “We have to help do our part towards the regional solid waste recycling plan.”

While agreeable to the city staff’s proposal to end recycling May 28, the council members asked Jarratt to come back with a plan for residents to arrange to keep their blue bins as extra trash receptacles if so desired.

According to Jarratt, the estimated savings take into account the added cost the city will pay to SPSA as a result of residents throwing their recyclables in with the regular trash. The city is forecasting its total tonnage going to the regional landfill in Suffolk will increase by roughly 300 tons as a result of discontinuing recycling.

Come May 28, Franklin will become the second Western Tidewater municipality to end recycling this year. The town of Smithfield in Isle of Wight County discontinued its curbside recycling pickup in mid-January.

Southampton County accepts recyclables at 12 of its 16 refuse convenience sites, but Franklin residents looking to continue to recycle won’t be able to take their recyclables there, as the sites are for county residents only. The same is true for the eight refuse and recycling centers located in Isle of Wight County.