Amherst County officials formally backed keeping the county’s recycling intact for plastics and paper after discussing scrapping portions of its recyclables program to save money.

The county recycles multiple commodities at its solid waste collection centers such as metals, cardboard, plastic and paper, and the market for the latter two is not cost-effective for the county, according to Brian Thacker, director of public works.

In the past year, county residents have recycled about 83 tons of plastic and paper at some convenience centers and former bins at the Amelon and Ambriar shopping centers in Madison Heights and the town of Amherst, Thacker said. The Amherst County Board of Supervisors in March authorized removing the bins from the two shopping areas mainly because they were misused, which recently led to a slew of phone calls, according to the county.

“I have received a ton of calls and emails about this issue,” Chairwoman Claudia Tucker said during the board’s May 5 meeting of recycling. “It’s a philosophical and a political issue, which is why we’re here.”

Thacker said the current cost to recycle paper and plastics is about $70 per ton, resulting in more than $10,000 a year factoring in hauling expenses. The board was asked to consider suspending all plastic and paper recycling services at the solid waste convenience centers until such activities are revenue neutral or positive for the county.

Supervisor Tom Martin said he’s received more phone calls from residents on recycling than any other topic since he started his term in January. He said he would not support suspending any portion of the recycling program.

The board unanimously voted to keep its current recycling operations in place. Tucker referred to supervisors’ formal action as a statement the county is willing to subsidize recycling paper and plastics, a topic many residents are passionate about.

Supervisor David Pugh said recycling as is keeps 83 tons of material out of the county’s landfill, which is a positive for the county. The board’s action also explores placing recycling containers at the Dodds Store Convenience Center, which opened in late 2019 on U.S. 60 West in northern Amherst County.

“There is a benefit to recycling,” Martin said. “Yes, it is costing us, but some things — it’s just the right thing to do philosophically.”

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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