Mandatory Recycling Rates for Localities

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The Virginia General Assembly has adopted legislation which set the following recycling rates for communities:

Each county, city, town or regional authority was required to establish recycling programs that would meet or exceed a recycling goal of 25% of its municipal solid waste generation.The statutory recycling rate of 25 percent continues today for many Virginia localities, but legislation introduced in 2006 provides for a two-tiered recycling mandate - 15% and 25%.  Localities or regions (called Solid Waste Planning Units or SWPUs) with population densities less than 100 persons per square mile or with an unemployment rate 50% higher than the statewide average now qualify for a 15% mandated recycling level, with all others remaining at the 25% recycling mandated level.

SWPUs that meet the 15% mandated recycling rate criteria for annual reporting are identified here.

Regulations for the Development of Solid Waste Management Plans (9 VAC 20-130-10 et seq.) require that Regions as well as each city, county, and town not part of a designated Region in the Commonwealth develop and maintain solid waste management plans. Section 9 VAC 20-130-120 B& C of the Regulations requires that a minimum recycling rate of 25% of the total municipal solid waste generated annually in each city, county, town, or Region be maintained. Note that with the 2006 legislation, the regulations were revised to include the 15% mandated recycling level for qualifying SWPUs.  It also requires that the plan describe how this rate shall be met or exceeded and requires that the calculation methodology be included in the plan. Section 9VAC 20-130-165 D establishes that every city, county, and town in the Commonwealth, or solid waste management planning region (now SWPUs) with populations in excess of 100,000 (17 of the 71 SWPUs) shall annually submit to the Department of Environmental Quality by April 30 of each year the data and calculations required in 9 VAC 20-130-120 B&C for the preceding calendar year. Guidance on how to complete the recycling rate report form is available here.

Effective after CY 2012, each city, county, and town in the Commonwealth, or solid waste management planning region (now SWPUs) with populations of 100,000 or below shall only be required to submit to the Department of Environmental Quality every four years the data and calculations required in 9 VAC 20-130-120 B&C.  The next required reporting will be for CY 2016.

These submittals are the basis for establishing the state Recycling Rate in Virginia each year.  Recycling Action Plans, or RAPs, may be a required part of the solid waste management plan if the SWPU falls below its mandated recycling rate.

The calendar year 2016 Annual Recycling Rate Report established a recycling rate for Virginia of 42.6 %, which included credits for solid waste reused, non-MSW recycled, recycling residues, and source reduction programs.  This rate was based on the data submitted by 70 of the 71 SWPUs required to report for 2016.  Most of the highest recycling rates historically were experienced by programs in the urban areas of Virginia.

Historical Recycling Rate Data (1991 - 2017)

  • 2016 - 42.6%
  • 2015 - 44.2%
  • 2014 - 42.5%
  • 2013 - 41.2%  
  • 2012 - 41.5%
  • 2011 - 43.5%
  • 2010 - 40.5%
  • 2009 - 38.6%
  • 2008 - 38.5%
  • 2007 - 38.5%
  • 2006 - 38.4%
  • 2005 - 32.2%
  • 2004 - 29.8%
  • 2003 - 30.3%
  • 2002 - 36.8%
  • 2001 - 37.8%
  • 2000 - 32.9%*
  • 1995 - 35.0%
  • 1993 - 33.4%
  • 1991 - 19.7%
*Voluntary Report - Recycling Rate reporting was not required in Virginia from CY 1996 until CY 2001.
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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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