By Alex Bahr
Capital News Service
The town of Vienna has taken the lead when it comes to recycling in Virginia, recycling more than 55 percent of all solid waste produced in 2006, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.
While Mayor Jane Seeman said she couldn’t name the exact reason for the town’s high rate, she cited convenience and a long history of recycling as two factors.
“We publicize it quite a bit, and make it as convenient for people as we can, but I really don’t know what to give credit to that for,” Seeman said in a telephone interview. “We’ve been doing it for a long time, so that’s another thing.”
Vienna also had the highest recycling rate in Virginia in 2004 and 2005.
Matthew Randall, an engineer in the town’s Department of Public Works, attributed the high rate to the convenient recycling services offered by the local government.
One such service includes curb-side pickup of leaves and yard waste. Residents simply sweep waste to the curb to be vacuumed up by specially equipped trucks.
“A big portion of it is leaves and mulch, which we go around each year and vacuum up. The citizens kind of sweep them to the curb, and we vacuum them up,” Randall said.
However, the service does more than just vacuum up leaves.
“We then take those down to our property yard and grind them up as mulch and redistribute them throughout the town,” Randall said. Residents of Vienna even can call up the town and order a delivery of mulch, he said.
The Department of Public Works’ sanitation branch, which handles residential solid waste removal, is responsible for collecting the leaves and yard waste. The department’s street maintenance branch, which is responsible for snow removal and street sweeping, turns the material into mulch and redistributes it.
Leaves and yard waste made up about one-third of the total recycled materials in Vienna in 2006, according to Randall. Newspapers were the second largest group of recycled materials, making up about one-fifth of the total.
Seeman said she was unsure of how long the town has been recycling yard waste and delivering mulch to its citizens, but said she believes the practice has been going on for at least 40 years.
“I’ve lived in the town for 40 years, and as far as I know it’s been that long,” Seeman said. “I usually get a truck load (of mulch) every year, so I think it’s been going on at least that long.”
The makeup of the town’s residences also lends itself to recycling. Single-family residences make up about 84 percent of all homes in Vienna, according to the town’s comprehensive plan. Single-family homes have easy access to recycling through the curbside-pickup service offered by the town.
Vienna has only one apartment complex, and multifamily housing units such as apartments, townhomes and condominiums make up only about 8 percent of the town’s residences. In townhome complexes, the town contracts recycling and trash pickup out to private companies, Seeman says.
The town also has been making efforts to educate its citizens about easy ways to lead more environmentally healthy lifestyles by offering advice in its monthly newsletter.
“What we’re doing, and I guess this is part of recycling, is trying to educate people about being a little more environmentally conscious,” Seeman said. “And every month in our town newsletter, we have sort of a tip on things like driving better to save gas, better light bulbs, heating your home – things like that.”
Seeman said the town also is organizing a “green team,” in which all town-government department heads will meet and discuss ways to make all of their agencies more environmentally friendly.