Recycling matters in Suffolk

Published 9:48 pm Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Recycling isn’t new, and the importance of properly disposing of recyclables is repeated again and again. But Kathy Russell has seen that there are still too many Suffolk residents not doing it right.

“There’s three types of people that recycle,” she said at meeting for the Junto Women’s Club in Suffolk. “There’s the person that knows what to do and is really good at it. Then there are the overzealous that want to recycle everything, and lastly, those that just recycle whatever doesn’t fit in the trash can.”

Russell is the educational outreach coordinator for TFC Recycling — Virginia’s largest residential curbside recycler — and also volunteers as the chairperson of Keep Suffolk Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep Virginia Beautiful and Keep America Beautiful.

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She met the Junto members at St. John’s Parish House on King’s Highway on Monday to discuss the do’s and don’ts of recycling and to answer any of their questions. She listed the basics of what should be put in the blue recycle bins: aluminum cans, glass bottles, cardboard, newspaper and so on.

Each bin even has the appropriate items embossed on top.

“If you go by what’s on top of your bin, then you’re good,” Russell said.

As part of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, Junto members participate in conservation community service projects. Members collected 71 used batteries to give to Russell on Monday for a Keep Suffolk Beautiful recycling effort. The members also help recycle plastic bags and tabs.

“The tabs will go to the Eastern Shore for a group that makes things out of them,” said Conversation Chair Janet Wynn.

Keep Suffolk Beautiful sends batteries to be recycled through a Richmond-based company. Volunteers also collect along plastic bags, a common item found in recycling bins that actually doesn’t belong.

“They’re very recyclable, but not in the blue bins,” Russell said.

TFC Recycling deals with “contamination” of items in their Suffolk loads that aren’t recyclable, Russell said. Food or hazardous waste, Styrofoam, light bulbs and paint cans are some of the most common infractions but are by no means the biggest.

“We’ve had car seats, construction debris and even the kitchen sink,” she said.

The City of Suffolk conducted recycling audits in 2017 on three different collection routes. One was in downtown Suffolk, another in Northern Suffolk and the third in rural Suffolk. The regional project was done in collaboration with askHRgreen Recycling and the Beautification Education Committee.

“The goal of the project was to find out the main contaminants so city staff could do a better job of educating the public,” city spokesman Tim Kelley wrote in an email.

Major contaminants found in recycling bins included plastic bags, pet food bags, full trash bags and household items like toys and shoes.

“What we’re specifically looking for are contaminants specific to certain areas, so when we do education programs, we can give people in those areas specifics,” Litter Control Coordinator Wayne Jones said in a phone interview.

Community organizations like the Junto club have helped make a difference in recycling trends in the region. Many Junto members are locals with vested interest in their home city, particularly its waterways.

“A lot of folks out here live on the Nansemond River and the Chuckatuck Creek, and I just think it falls right in with what we want to do for conversation,” said Public Issues Chairperson Jane Moore.

“The whole Hampton Roads and Tidewater region is located in a very protected environment,” said Lorraine McGovern of the Junto’s Woman’s Club. “I live on the Nansemond River too, and it would behoove us to be involved.”

Suffolk Litter Control will partner with Keep Suffolk Beautiful to hold a recycling drive and Tire Amnesty Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 7 in the Lowe’s parking lot, 1216 N. Main St. Cleaning products, pesticides, paint supplies and other hazardous waste will also be accepted.

Automobile and truck tires will be collected as long as they have no rims.

On-site shredding will be available for those getting rid of paper. The Lions Club will collect unwanted eye glasses and hearing aids and will be selling new brooms. The Foodbank of South Eastern Virginia will collect canned fruits and vegetables, baby formula, boxed meals and more.

Visit suffolkva.us/339/Recycling-Drive-Tire-Amnesty-Day for a full list of acceptable items and other information or call 514-7604.