Residents share mixed reactions as Chesterfield decides to privatize recycling

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) – Starting next year, recycling in Chesterfield will look different for thousands of households as county leaders move to privatize recycling by moving to a “subscription-based model.”

The decision comes roughly 10 months before Chesterfield’s curbside recycling contract with Central Virginia Waste Management Authority ends on July 1, 2023.

Since 1991, Chesterfield has participated in the curbside recycling program with CVWMA, which was started to help localities meet the new statewide diversion requirement. The state requires 25 percent waste fun annually. At the moment, county officials said the region achieves roughly 60 percent.

During a presentation to the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 21, officials went over the decision for the change. On the presentation slide, one of the reasons slated for this choice came down to providing the “lowest cost for citizens.”

“We think they can get a better price if they bundle their trash service with the recycling program,” said John Neal, director of general services for Chesterfield County.

Neal said county leaders were told the subscription service bid for CVWMA would be roughly $200 per year.

According to the online presentation made on Wednesday, research from the private sector identified multiple haulers for providing a subscription service at $82-$120 annually, which the county said would save residents more money compared to when CVWMA rebid the contract and offered a price of $202 per year.

“What we’re planning to do is transition to have the four vendors, who have expressed interest in providing recycling services, to be able to work with the households directly,” Neal said on Thursday.

Sixty-two thousand households in Chesterfield are currently participating in the curbside recycling program. The county also adds that 18 residential communities have exited this program and chose to bundle their trash and recycling programs with private haulers.

As the county prepares for this transition, leaders also believe this switch will be consistent with the county’s subscription approach, cut the “middleman” when it comes to billing, and allow residents the choice to participate.

Since the county joined this program in 1991, the program was subsidized through tax revenues. In 2010, the program was funded through a $25 annual fee for each participating household. This price went up to $41 in 2021.

Regarding the $41 fee associated with this program for households who choose to participate, Neal said the bill would no longer appear once the contract ends next year.

“Once the contract ends, the $41 bill will go away, or if they want to opt-out now and go with another vendor, they can do so,” Neal said.

The county spokesperson also tells NBC12 that the county will still pay CVWMA for educational and promotional services, but the tax payments will not fund it.

The decision came with mixed reactions from residents across the county.

One man, who didn’t want to speak on camera, told NBC12 the decision doesn’t bother him. However, residents, including Jocelyn Sommers, feel differently.

“I felt very disappointed, very frustrated,” she told NBC12. “It is going to set a lot of people up for failure, who have been participating in this program, who counted on it, relied on it and now it puts it into an individual’s own hands into what to do, and I think a lot of people will not figure out what to do.”

Sommers also believes this move will do more harm than good.

“I think a lot of people will not figure out what to do either because it’s overwhelming or they’re not sure how to go about it,” she said.

Neal said during this transition period, the county will send letters to the households currently under this program to make sure they’re aware of the changes before the contract ends next year. In addition, Neal believes this will provide a positive outcome for the county.

“Just having that option, I think, will really catch on, and the residents will see a better service,” he said.

On the county’s website, leaders said residents could start transitioning to private haulers anytime. In addition, the county adds the following companies have indicated that they will provide curbside recycling, including the provision of containers for their service:

In addition, officials also add the county’s two convenience centers will continue to offer free drop-off recycling. During Wednesday’s presentation, officials also discussed budget developments for FY2024, which would consider $437,000 worth of funding to restore 7-day operations at their convenience centers.

“We’ll closely monitor how things are going, how the transition is going so that we can make adjustments as needed,” Neal said during Thursday’s interview.

County leaders also share there will be no cost increase for those who remain in the program until next year’s end date of July 1, 2023. Residents in this program who choose to opt out of the program before March 1, 2023, will not be charged the $20.50 fee for the year’s first half.

To find out more about the changes, click here.

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