RSWA to conduct engineering study on new paper-sort facility

Planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions takes many forms. Albemarle County’s Climate Action Plan has a whole chapter on “sustainable materials management” which has multiple strategies to divert items from landfills. Strategy 5.1.3 is to “identify if there is a need to local additional paper/cardboard balers in Albemarle County.” That item is under review by the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority and McKalips gave a briefing at the

The RSWA operates a facility on Meade Avenue that sorts paper material brought to the Ivy Materials Utilization Center and the McIntire Recycling Center. 

“People put their recyclable materials in there and we take those back to the paper sort facility and we by and large bale all of those products,” McKalips said. “That allows us to save a lot of shipping costs in getting them to our vendors.”

These are some of the strategies in the Albemarle County Climate Action Plan in the Sustainable Materials Management. Take a look at the whole plan here!

However, there are access issues with the site that have to be addressed. The property on which the facility is located on Meade Avenue is leased from Woolen Mills Self Storage but RSWA can only access it on property leased by Gerdau Metals Recycling. An access agreement has a 90-day termination clause and the bailing equipment is over 20 years old. 

“The thing has been well used and it’s getting near the end of its service life,” McKalips said. 

That’s prompted McKalips to see if there’s another option for the future. For instance, there’s not enough covered storage space to keep the material protected from rain and moisture that would make it unusable for recycling. The RSWA also collects paper material from other private collection sites such as at Kohl’s and Wal-Mart. That creates logistical issues with what to bale and when. 

“So this facility gets a lot of cardboard,” McKalips said. “That cardboard isn’t conducive to pushing that back into a trailer and pulling it out later so we leave it out front and then that’s one of the earliest products to get bailed. Having said that though, we have all [these] materials that need to be pulled back out, driven around the cardboard, and baled.”

So with a future need, McKalips presented three options for the future. The first would renovate and expand on site and would have have a $2 million capital cost. The second would be to skip the local baling facility entirely and ship out to other entities. That would include no capital costs, but increase operating costs of $550,000 in the first year and $300,000 each year after. The third would be to build a new paper sort facility with two bailers.  

“Obviously this is going to be the most expensive option,” McKalips said. “It was looking to be about $4.3 million in the feasibility study.” 

If the third option is pursued, McKalips said the next step is to work with Albemarle and Charlottesville to identify a potential site for the new location. They’ll need about three acres of land. 

Lance Stewart, Albemarle’s Director of Facilities and Environmental Services, said that he is hopeful to be able to work with city government to develop an approach to move forward with a new facility. 

“I think it’s a complex set of issues that hopefully we can come together on,” Stewart said. 

The presentation comes just as Albemarle and Charlottesville are about to start their budget cycle. The RSWA Board reached consensus to direct staff to move forward with the engineering study for a new facility. 

Images from the existing paper sort facility on Meade Avenue 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the October 5, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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