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Frederick County may be forced to scrap recycling


WINCHESTER — Frederick County may be forced to discontinue most of its recycling in two months.

The county announced Wednesday that Southern Scrap is terminating its contract with the county for recycling services. The county received the 60-day notice on June 13.

The county, which operates the Regional Landfill on Landfill Road and 11 convenience centers for refuse disposal, currently sends mixed paper, cardboard, steel, aluminum cans, plastic bottles and jugs, and plastic retail shopping bags to Southern Scrap on Stine Lane for recycling. If a new contract cannot be negotiated or another solution found, these items will go into the landfill with the other trash. County recycling programs that do not involve Southern Scrap, such as electronics recycling, will not be impacted.

Southern Scrap President Steven Williams could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Frederick County Solid Waste Manager Gloria Puffinburger said in a news release that the county hopes to find a way to maintain its recycling programs through at least the end of the year, “but with the uncertainty in the recycling industry as a whole, we are not completely surprised” about Southern Scrap’s contract termination.

“Researching options for recycling and other waste issues is a constant in my office,” she continued. “We have a number of ideas being explored and there is outreach being done to try to find both a short-term, mid-term, and long-term solution.”

Until recently, the county typically entered into a year-long contract with Southern Scrap, with the most recent annual contract expiring in December 2018. But with the instability in the recycling market, Williams proposed shorter arrangements, so the county signed a new contract in December for 90 days, with renewal every 90 days unless either party chose to take the 60-day opt out clause.

“This is an unfortunate situation that is not just a local problem but a national and international issue,” Frederick County Public Information Officer Karen Vacchio said in the release. “The market for recyclables is becoming more and more restricted and as that happens, the options for disposing of the materials are changing rapidly.”

In November 2016, the county stopped recycling glass because the market for it had declined. Reviving the glass recycling program would cost the county more than $53,000 a year.

County residents currently do not pay a fee to recycle materials that are sent to Southern Scrap.

The worldwide recycling market has faced numerous challenges in recent years, in large part because China announced in 2017 it would stop accepting 24 kinds of recyclables including unsorted paper, plastics and cardboard. Since then, the United States and other countries have encountered difficulty getting rid of certain materials. A World Trade Organization filing states China wants to be stricter about the quality of materials it accepts.

China has accepted more than 116 million tons of plastic since 1992, according to a study published by the journal Science Advances. By 2030, more than 122 million tons of plastic will be in search of a recycler.

Winchester was recently notified by Southern Scrap that it will stop accepting most city recyclables on July 15, which could end the city’s free curbside recycling program. The city is conducting an online survey to see if residents want to eliminate the recycling program or continue it with participants paying a monthly fee of $2. As of Wednesday afternoon, 1,061 people had responded to the survey, with 70.1% saying they would be willing to pay a fee to keep the recycling program.

Vacchio said the county does not have an online survey but it welcomes input from the public.

As the situation develops, information will be posted on the county website at www.fcva.us and on various social media platforms. People may also visit www.fcrecycles.net to learn about recycling programs that will not be impacted.

People with questions or concerns should contact Vacchio at 540-722-8307 or kvacchio@fcva.us.