Recycling steadily growing more common in DC-area counties

This July image from the Prince William County Landfill “illustrates opportunity for improvement,” said Deborah Campbell of the Prince William County Solid Waste Division.

Workers at Prince George’s County Materials Recycling Facility in Capitol Heights, Maryland, sort through the items collected through single-stream recycling. (Courtesy Prince George's County)
Workers at Prince George’s County Materials Recycling Facility in Capitol Heights, Maryland, sort through the items collected through single-stream recycling.

Bales of single-stream recycling material at the Prince George’s County Materials Recycling Facility. (Courtesy Prince George's County)
Bales of single-stream recycling material at the Prince George’s County Materials Recycling Facility. (Courtesy Prince George’s County)

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Workers at Prince George’s County Materials Recycling Facility in Capitol Heights, Maryland, sort through the items collected through single-stream recycling. (Courtesy Prince George's County)
Bales of single-stream recycling material at the Prince George’s County Materials Recycling Facility. (Courtesy Prince George's County)

WASHINGTON — Recycling is second nature in some households and completely foreign in others, but it’s a practice gaining traction in the D.C. area.

In Prince William County, Virginia, recycling rates increased over 5 percent in a year (up to 36.8 percent in 2016), while the latest numbers from Maryland show that in 2015, Prince George’s County diverted 64.59 percent of its waste.

“The No. 1 county in recycling and waste diversion in the state of Maryland is Prince George’s County,” said Adam Ortiz, director of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment.

Efforts progressed significantly about four years ago, Ortiz said, when the city improved facilities, increased outreach and began to see the impact of progressive laws and policies.

Styrofoam is banned from restaurants and stores, and all apartments, condos and businesses in Prince George’s County are required to provide recycling.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Deborah Campbell of the Prince William County Solid Waste Division.

She noted that communities that don’t have landfills for garbage have to either ship waste to landfills or incinerators, which can cost a lot of money.

“If it’s not for the environment, then think about the money that you’re saving as a taxpayer in helping your jurisdictions do a better job of managing waste,” Campbell said.

In Maryland, Montgomery County reports a recycling rate of 61 percent.

Find the statistics for all Maryland counties here.

In Virginia, Fairfax County’s Solid Waste Management program reported a 50 percent recycling rate for 2016.

Recycling numbers for all of Virginia in 2016 should be compiled soon, according to a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. But data from 2015 show the Richmond area achieved the highest recycling rates at 62.7 percent.

The recycling rate for all of Northern Virginia is 47.4 percent.

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