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What is recycling? True recycling is a series of activities by which materials ready to be discarded are instead separated from the waste stream, collected, sorted, processed, and converted into new materials and then used in the production of new products. Collecting and processing secondary materials, manufacturing recycled-content products, and then purchasing recycled products creates a circle or loop that ensures the overall success and value of recycling.  Visit the following web site for Frequently Asked Questions about the environmental value of recycling:

How do I recycle correctly?  Locality recycling programs are geared to the collection of recyclable materials, and then to the directing of these materials to the markets via public or private processing or brokering systems.  Types of collection systems include drop-off containers, manned or un-manned convenience centers, and curbside collection programs.  Key to the success of any program is on-going promotion of recycling as an environmental and community asset, with all sectors contributing to the diversion of recyclable materials from the waste stream.

In Virginia recyclable materials from the municipal solid waste streams include: paper (newspapers, corrugated cardboard, Kraft paper, high-grade office paper, mixed paper), metal (ferrous scrap, non-ferrous scrap, aluminum, tin cans), plastics, glass, yard waste (composted or mulched), waste wood, textiles, waste tires, used oil-oil filters-antifreeze, auto bodies (Department of Motor Vehicles' Abandoned Vehicle Program), construction waste, demolition waste, debris waste, batteries, ash and non-industrial sludges (composted). It is important to understand the materials that can be recycled. Your locality website or recycling coordinator can share the specific details.

Senate Bill 218 was adopted by the 2018 General Assembly and directed the Department to provide an evaluation of recycling rates and recommendations for improving the reliability of the supply of recycled materials during the next 10 years in order to provide for beneficial use by industry.  This DEQ's report was due to the General Assembly by Nov 1, 2019.

Senate Bill 218 further provides that the evaluation should consider incentive-based strategies, including the granting of economic development incentives for the construction of recycling centers and beneficiation facilities that have the potential to increase beneficial use of glass, plastic, metal, and fiber. The evaluation also should investigate the effect of the operation of mixed-waste material recycling facilities on the quality and quantity of recyclable materials available for beneficial use.

As part of this effort, DEQ had reached out to solid waste planning units, locality recycling coordinators, recycling organizations, and other stakeholders to provide input for the evaluation.

Considering the recent changes to the recycling industry and challenges from the China ban, DEQ has requested all planning units reporting recycling rate for CY2018 to identify any changes, challenges and/or success to the recycling activities in as part of their report. Localities are required to submit the reports to DEQ by April 30, 2019.

National Trends

A national goal of 35 percent recycling by the Year 2010 was issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (For additional background information on EPA's analysis of the 35 percent recycling goal see Recycling.For the Future: Consider the Benefits at

Virginia Recycling Initiatives and Organizations

In 1989, the Virginia General Assembly adopted legislation that established a 25% recycling rate target for communities, which was modified in 2006 as the General Assembly established a two-tiered recycling mandate of 15% and 25% (effective July 1, 2006).  Individual localities or solid waste planning units (SWPUs) with population densities of less than 100 persons per square mile or with unemployment rates 50% above the state's average unemployment rate qualify for the 15% mandated level; all others are charged to meet the 25% recycling rate. 

Legislative action in 2012 eliminated the annual reporting requirement for SWPUs with populations of 100,000 or less after CY 2012.  Instead, those SWPUs will be required to report every four years, beginning with CY 2016 data to be submitted to DEQ by April 30, 2017.  All SWPUs with populations over 100,000 will continue to report annually.

Other initiatives include a recycling equipment tax credit, waste tire end-user reimbursements, non-competitive grants for localities, and establishment of the Virginia Litter Control and Recycling Fund Advisory Board

Virginia Trends 

Virginia's calculated recycling rate for Calendar Year 2017 was 42.8%.  This calculated rate was derived from recycling rate data submitted by 17 Virginia Solid Waste Planning Units to DEQ as required by regulations (9VAC-20-130-120 B&C). 

Recycling Rate Reports 


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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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