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Holiday coda: Trash and recycling adorns Roanoke Valley curbsides

Holiday coda: Trash and recycling adorns Roanoke Valley curbsides

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The proliferation of punctured packages, discarded cardboard and other refuse in curbside bins this week are remnants of a Christmas past.

“Christmas is definitely the time of giving,” said Dan Miles, CEO of Roanoke Valley Resource Authority. “We’re given more and more trash every year at this time.”

Garbage and recycling bins are overflowing with torn-open, gift-wrapped packages, and trash collectors in the Roanoke Valley expect to amass more household refuse this time of the season than other days of the year.

Trash collections from Roanoke County, Roanoke, Salem and Vinton go to RVRA, which transports the waste to Smith Gap Landfill in Roanoke County.

The authority receives 20% to 25% more waste by weight on the first collection day after Christmas, which this year fell on Monday, Miles said.

“Normally, we’d be expecting about 400 tons,” Miles said on Monday. “But we would be certainly looking for 500-plus tons today.”

Indeed, municipal collections amassed by RVRA Monday totaled 539 tons of trash, Miles said Tuesday.

RVRA is well-equipped to handle the increase in household trash, which comes at a time when the weight of commercial waste is usually lessened due to shortened holiday business hours, Miles said.

“We’re well used to it,” Miles said. “It’s not a surprise to us.”

The post-Christmas spike in trash collections is expected through the end of December and into the first week of 2021.

“It’ll happen again next Monday,” Miles said. “Then it’ll start to taper off again.”

The transition between calendar years is definitely one of busiest times for trash pickup, said Roanoke County General Services Director Doug Blount.

“We do see a significant increase in the tonnage that we are picking up from the Christmas and New Year holidays,” Blount said. “That usually continues into the end of January.”

Roanoke County’s amplified holiday refuse is readily handled by its fleet of trash trucks, which run eight routes daily, picking up at 1,000-1,200 homes per route, Blount said.

The county’s recycling program sees a bump in usage as well, requiring employees to pick up extra recycling shifts for a weekend or two after Christmas.

“Our recycling centers see a large increase of people recycling the different paper and plastic products during the holidays,” Blount said. “That does keep us very busy this time of year.”

In Salem, two extra garbage trucks and six additional crew members were in the streets Monday and Tuesday, handling double runs to make up for Dec. 24 and 25 collections, said Salem Communications Coordinator Mike Stevens.

“There is always a large amount of trash after a holiday,” Stevens said. “As long as the equipment doesn’t fail, we can knock out two routes in one day with the additional equipment and workers.”

Vinton handles holiday household trash similarly, said Bo Herndon, acting public works director.

“During the holidays here when we have time off, we run double runs to keep ourselves on track,” Herndon said, explaining that Vinton trash collection routes pick up a day early before holidays.

The town adds extra workers to routes during this busiest season for garbage, and runs its bulk collection truck more frequently from Black Friday through the month of December to meet demand, Herndon said.

“It’s just extra, and it’s a little bit extra now lately because of the increase of online shopping,” Herndon said. “There’s a lot more Amazon boxes, or delivery boxes where people used to go out and go shopping. That’s where the volume comes in, is the package.”

In Roanoke, Solid Waste Management Division Director Jeffrey Powell said Tuesday that collections for city trash and recycling are up a few tons during the past two days, not unlike other years.

“We’re doing well, we’re not bringing in additional resources,” Powell said. “We’re working it within our regular staffing.”

Christmas trees thrown out after the holiday are mulched by RVRA, as long as they are discarded without decorations still adorned, Miles said. After the holiday garbage rush, intake slows down again until the weather warms up.

“Typically during the warmer summer months we get more garbage,” Miles said. “We tend to see our numbers dwindle down during colder months.”

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