Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Recycling Trending Up Since Pandemic Began, and Into Holidays

stock photo of gifts
Christmas Day is this week. And with the holiday comes the question of what to do with the remnants of all the items used in getting those gifts under the tree. (Photo:

Since the pandemic began, officials at the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority say they’ve seen a huge increase in recycling and in trash collection. 

“We were recycling two to 400 tons more a month than we were prior to March,” said the authority’s executive director, Kim Hynes.

Hynes said they’ve had to shift from commercial to residential collections.

“You know, [there are] more people working from home, schools out. And then home deliveries, things like that have [created] a huge uptick in the volume,” she said. 

And with the uptick, there’s been a huge demand for certain recycled commodities. 

“With the demand for toilet paper, paper towels, things like that, the demand for cardboard and paper quantities has increased and that's helped drive up market prices too,” Hynes said.

Hynes said there’s also been an increase in heavier glass containers. 

“A lot more wine bottles and things like that, too, on the curb,” she said. 

Now, with the holidays in full swing, the organization enlisted the help of professional magician and juggler Jonathan Austin to remind people what can be recycled. 

“I bring you the magic of recycling. There are five major categories that you can recycle. You can recycle paper and cardboard, glass bottles and jars, plastic bottles, jugs and tubs, aluminum and steel cans, food and beverage cartons,” Austin said.

As for those cardboard Amazon boxes that have piled up: Those can be recycled, Hynes said.

But when it comes to wrapping paper, people need to pay attention.

“If it's truly paper wrapping paper, you can recycle that in with your mixed paper. The glossy or the kind of almost waxy like paper is you should leave out of the program,” Hynes said.

Hynes says items like bows, ribbon and tissue paper should be reused. 

And if you bought a live Christmas tree, that too can be recycled. She says CVWMA will have a list on their website of places that will take trees and turn them into mulch.

Another paper item that may pile up this holiday season are the carcasses of old pizza boxes. 

“Traditionally, the problem has been grease and food contamination. And sometimes there's an extra piece of paper in there,” Hynes said.

She said food packaging, like pizza boxes, should be free of grease or leftovers.  

One of the biggest problems Hynes is seeing is the rise in plastic bags in bins. Hynes said people tend to want to bag their recyclables, especially if they have the large recycling cans. 

“Plastic bags are recyclable. But you need to take them back to grocery stores,” Hynes said. “If they get into our program, they tend to gum up the material. They slow down production.”

Hynes said people can just put all their loose recyclables in the can but need to leave the bag out. 


Ian M. Stewart previously was the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
Related Stories