Separation anxiety

Dear Ace: I called my trash removal company today and they’re telling me that I don’t need to recycle, but that if I put all my trash in the receptacle, they’ll separate the recyclables from the garbage. This just seems too good to be true. What’s really up with trash removal and recycling?—Doubting in Fluvanna

If your garbage gets picked up by Dixon, All American, Fluvanna Disposal or one of six other independent waste disposal contractors in Central Virginia that send their trash to the Van der Linde Recycling Center for processing, then it’s true: Now, even if you don’t recycle, you still recycle.

If you missed the news about Van der Linde Recycling’s new household waste facility, Ace doesn’t blame you—it opened for operations in November 2009 in the midst of a long-standing lawsuit against the Fluvanna-based private waste collector by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority. The suit ended in January with Van der Linde paying the RSWA $600,000, but Ace isn’t going to recapitulate the details of the messy legal saga. Instead, he’ll bring you up to speed on the particulars of your newly sustainable, albeit slightly less conscientious, disposal practices.

The Van der Linde Recycling Center, located near the Zion Crossroads off of Route 250 East, describes itself as “the landfill of the future,” separating and recycling nearly all types of household garbage—everything except hazardous or Freon products, toxic chemicals, or tires—and also sorts through construction and demolition debris. According to the Center’s website, its mammoth “Green Machine” can process 100 tons of trash per hour and recycle over 90 percent of it—although after several phone calls and an e-mail to Van der Linde, Ace wasn’t able to get an answer about what happens to the remaining refuse.

But on the whole, it’s a brilliant idea, right? Never mind that the reason we need a recycling center is because, by and large, we can’t be trusted to separate our own garbage. There aren’t many ways to derive a sense of civic responsibility so easily as tossing a depleted handle of Wild Turkey into the red receptacle instead of the green one. Even if those feelings were contrived, Ace will miss them.

If your trash removal company isn’t one of the contractors that go to the Van der Linde plant for processing, however, you can drop off your garbage at the facility yourself. You’ll feel like part of the conservation process again, at least, if you don’t consider the gas you burn getting there. 

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 21 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to

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