Albemarle recycling: Let the consumer beware


Harvey and Marty Chaplin had dutifully been recycling their newspapers, putting them out for pickup every other Wednesday.

Early last summer, the Ivy couple realized they hadn't been seeing the recycling truck that their trash hauler, BFI, had sent out in the past, but their papers were gone. One day in August, Harvey Chaplin happened to see his recycling get picked up– and tossed in with their garbage.

Although Albemarle County ditched its curbside pickup of glass, aluminum, and plastic in 2003, county code still requires private garbage haulers to pick up newspapers and magazines for recycling. Whether that happens, though, often depends on how determined citizens are to recycle, especially if their hauler is BFI, recently purchased by Allied Waste.

Marty Chaplin discovered that some of her West Leigh neighbors had stopped putting out newspapers for recycling and were taking them to McIntire Recycling Center. "Some people had no idea the county required [haulers] to pick up papers," she says.

She spent the next three months calling Allied Waste and the county trying to get newspapers in her neighborhood picked up. Chaplin also was irked about paying for a service she wasn't getting.

Allied Waste supervisor Wayne Smith says there is no charge for recycling, but the company puts the burden on the customer to request it. "It's not an automatic thing," Smith says. "If you don't sign up, we can't go to every road in the county."

However, this reporter called Allied Waste several times to ask about recycling at her residence, and was told newspapers were picked up every other Wednesday. When that didn't happen, the customer service representative investigated and admitted there was no recycling set up for that neighborhood– and offered no options for signing up for the service.

George Shadman, Albemarle County's director of general services, urges residents whose recycling isn't getting picked up to call general services at 296-5811. "We will call the hauler," he says, "and remind them of their obligation."

As for Allied's policy of requiring the customer to sign up, county code mandates that haulers have to offer the service, "but doesn't say how it should be managed," notes Shadman.

Another hauler, who spoke only on the condition his name not be used ("I don't want to get in the middle of a recycling war"), says he no longer advertises recycling, but does pick up papers from customers who request it or who leave them out properly packed in paper bags.

"There doesn't seem to be a deliberate attempt by haulers to not pick up recycling," says Shadman. He believes large employee turnover is more likely to be the culprit.

Turnover has been a factor in the county, too, which has been without a chief of public works since Paul Muhlberger left in April 2005. Shadman expects to fill that position by February and the new chief will be responsible for looking at the county's recycling program and make recommendations. "I'm going to be looking at all options," says Shadman.

Marty Chaplin is just relieved that her newspapers are finally being picked up again. "We take two to three papers," she says. "It was a real burden to us."