On a cloudy and warm day just after noon, a Danville employee driving an orange-and-black skid loader dumps a pile of mixed paper and cardboard into a large green compactor to be made into 2,200-pound bales that are loaded onto trailers to be hauled away.
Two large arms with shiny hydraulic pistons and a scoop at the end moved over top of the loader, dropping the scrunched-together ball of material into the compactor.
“We get about a 20-ton load [on each trailer],” Danville Public Works Director Rick Drazenovich said at the city’s recycling facility Monday.
The loads of cardboard and paper are taken to Rock-Tenn Paperboard Products in Lynchburg.
It’s not just paper products that are being recycled. Plastic milk jugs and liquid soap bottles, glass bottles and jars also go to a variety of end uses.
For example, milk jugs go to Envision Plastics in Reidsville, North Carolina, where they are processed and sold to manufacturers to be made into bottles again 95% of the time.
The remaining 5% goes to other producers where it is made into corrugated drainage pipe or plastic flower pots, Envision Plant Manager Tom Scheffer said.
But before Danville’s recyclables are sent to places like Envision, they must be collected, sorted and baled before they leave the city.
At the recycling facility across from Danville Public Works at 998 South Boston Road, officials led a Danville Register & Bee reporter on a tour of the site Monday.
The city receives about $35 per ton for cardboard and mixed paper, including mostly newspaper and magazines.
In the plastic-recycling building, milk jugs, juice and water bottles, and other plastic containers move up a conveyor belt while workers sort them out, making sure any unwanted trash — food-smeared plastic trays or jugs lined with spoiled milk — falls into waste bins at the end of the line. That way, detritus will not be mixed with recyclables and inadvertently shipped with it.
Flies buzz around bins of waste the city cannot recycle. Though a recycling facility, the odor of rotting trash wafted in parts of it as a result of people leaving dirty material at the recycling sites around the city.
Danville has been offering recycling for about 20 years. There are five sites in Danville to drop off recyclables: Ballou Park Shopping Center, the Danville Mall’s southwest corner, Tractor Supply at Kings Fairground Plaza, Piney Forest Road beside the Astoria Hotel and at South Boston and Halifax roads across from public works.
The sites take glass bottles and jars, cardboard, mixed paper, aluminum and tin cans and plastic bottles.
As for glass, it is scooped up in a skid loader, dumped into a glass crusher and broken down into shards. It travels up a conveyor belt and into an open-top dump trailer.
The trailer transports the glass in a 20-ton load to Strategic Materials Inc. in Wilson, North Carolina.
“We get $5 a ton for this,” Drazenovich said. “It doesn’t even pay for the trip.”
There aren’t any choices for the city.
“They’re the only place within hundreds of miles that will take it,” said Chris Goss, division director of sanitation.
Once in Wilson, the glass is ground into sand and used for sandblasting, said Joey Fortson, weigh master at Strategic Materials. Sandblasting involves cleaning with a jet of sand driven by compressed air or steam.
Ground glass also is used in reflective paint on highways and as an aggregate in concrete mix, Fortson said. An aggregate is a mix of material made from a mass of fragments or particles.
The city does not take light bulbs, dishes or mirrors for recycling. Also, the city trashes any plastic bottles with milk or juice residue or plastic containers with leftover food.
Tin and aluminum are run through a sorter that drops the aluminum out one side and the tin another way. They are put into separate bins and taken to AMA Recycling at Halifax Road.
City residents pay for recycling as part of the $16.50 monthly solid waste fee. Recycling makes up $1.26 of that fee, with Danville collecting $274,160 in 2018, according to figures provided by Drazenovich.
Danville also offers curbside collection of recyclables for a $90 yearly fee. Collection is the first and third Thursday each month.
The city collected 907 tons of material in 2018, excluding yard waste and compost, Goss said. It collected $80,616 in revenue from selling recyclables.
It’s much cheaper than taking it to a landfill, he said. The city has saved about $48,000 by diverting recyclable material from a landfill.
“As long as we can sell it to a recycling facility that can process it, we’ll continue to recycle,” Goss said.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7987.