In an effort to reduce the county’s carbon footprint, certain businesses have partnered with the Nelson County Tourism Department to seek better solutions to solid waste, specifically recycling.
In mid-November, the tourism department released a survey on recycling habits of businesses to the county, hoping to get hard data from any and every business.
Elizabeth Tual, corporate social responsibility manager for Devils Backbone, said the brewing company partnered with the tourism department to hear from the business community. Tual said recycling has always been part of the values of Devils Backbone and they are always looking to reduce its carbon footprint. Right now, recycling is limited. Tual said the company has a vendor that takes and re-purposes waste grease from the kitchen, and the company compost pre-consumer food waste on-site.
“We also palletize cardboard at this property and send it to our Outpost production facility in Lexington, where a recycling hauler picks it up to recycle with other materials from that facility,” Tual said in an email.
At a recent event, the company had a container for all recycling.
“Thanks to the festival operations team and our Green Team volunteers, we successfully recycled 1,200 pounds of aluminum, plastic, and cardboard over the course of the weekend. These are good steps, but we know we can do more,” Tual said in an email.
As part of trying to do more, Tual said they believed the survey would be a good way to get data to determine the recycling needs of the community as a whole and work toward a solution to improve recycling options for businesses in the county if the survey shows businesses aren’t happy with the recycling options.
“We’re hoping for as much information as we can get. We have worked with several businesses to develop the survey and the more, the better. The more folks involved, the more comprehensive solution we can offer,” Tual said.
One of the outcomes Tual is hoping the survey provides is whether or not it would be more cost-effective to hire one vendor to collect trash from a number of businesses in the county.
“We’re excited to participate in the survey and hope that it is a first step to inform what is possible with regards to a commercial recycling solution for our area. We’ve enjoyed partnering with the County and regional businesses on this effort and are excited about the potential of this community project,” Tual said in an email.
According to Steve Carter, county administrator, the responsibility to recycle is mandated by the state, but it’s incumbent upon the locality to meet the 25% recycling rate. Carter said because Nelson is part of the Region 2000 Service Authority, which is comprised of Nelson, Campbell, Appomattox, and the city of Lynchburg, the recycle rate meets the mandated state minimum.
“We’re aggregated with the other authorities, so we are exceeding the 25%,” Carter said.
According to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality 2018 Annual Recycling Report, Region 2000 has a recycling rate of 38%. Total tons of recycled waste came to 121,124 out of 318,795 total tons of municipal solid waste.
However, Carter said the county alone doesn’t meet the mandatory 25% recycling rate. According to the 2018 Locality Recycling Rate Report for Nelson, the county’s rate was 15% last year. Carter said although the county is actively recycling and provides a number of solid waste collection sites, it’s hard because no one can be forced to recycle.
Nelson County offers four staffed solid waste collection sites in Roseland, Afton, Shipman, and Faber as well as unstaffed sites in areas like Wintergreen and Montebello. Carter said the market for recycled goods has changed drastically as well, providing a challenge for the county. Within the last 18 months, the county has begun taking solid waste to a Sonoco Recycling in Madison Heights.
The Hale Company used to accept the county’s recycling but Jeremy Hale, a Nelson resident and owner of The Hale Company, said he now only accepts cardboard.
Glass is no longer recycled in Nelson because there isn’t a market for recycled glass. Carter said the county does best at recycling aluminum cans, and to some extent metals and cardboard. Mixed paper and plastics go to Sonoco Recycling in Madison Heights. Metals, aluminum, and tires go to a separate site. The changes the county has been going through are indicative of the changes in the larger recycling market.
“We actually got paid for those recycled materials. With the decline in the market we are now having to pay,” Carter said.
Carter said the county encourages people to recycle as much as possible by making it easy to find the recycling containers, providing Goodwill bins for people who want to recycle clothes at the same time, and by staffing four of the solid waste sites.
“The challenge is: What do you do to encourage people to recycle more? The containers are right there; they are easily seen because they are right there when you dump your trash,” Carter said. “The recycling does not pay for itself, that’s for sure, but we are doing it, that’s for sure.”