February 20, 2024

The State of Recycling: Survey Results

Results were presented to Council on Feb. 20 for consideration in the proposed FY24-25 budget.

Recycling Change is Coming

Recycling is part of the Virginia Beach lifestyle, but change is coming! The City’s recycling contract with Tidewater Fibre Corp. (TFC Recycling) expires in June 2024. In the fall, City leaders asked residents what they wanted the future recycling program to look like. From Oct. 2 to Nov. 17, 2023, 9,948 Virginia Beach residents completed the State of Recycling Survey on SpeakUpVB.com. Results from the survey were presented to City Council on Feb. 20, 2024. 

Future Recycling Options 

Within the survey, residents were asked to rank their choices of the three options for the future recycling program. Residents also had the option to provide their own suggestions in the comments. 

  • Option 1: Same services, increased costs. Increased costs are estimated to be $2.50-$4 depending on results of the procurement process. All households that receive curbside services would pay the increased fees. 
  • Option 2: Eliminate curbside service and increase the number of convenience centers. The City currently has two recycling centers (West Neck and the Landfill). This option would look to develop five additional locations at a cost of $400,000 per center. The cost likely would be absorbed through the current waste management fee, and the City would work with a subscription-based service to help establish a market. 
  • Option 3: Develop an opt-in/opt-out recycling program. Those who opt in would continue to recycle, and it would be collected by a contractor. The cost would be determined by the number of residents who opt in. Those who opt out would put their recycle material into the black waste cart, which would be collected by the City and delivered to the landfill. 

Who We Heard From 

Overwhelmingly, residents who participated in the survey are part of the approximately 125,000 homes in Virginia Beach currently receiving curbside recycling services. These respondents also described themselves as avid recyclers who consider it “essential” or “important” to have curbside recycling services as part of Virginia Beach waste management services.    

  • 83.8% (8,333) of respondents report their primary residence as a single-family home.1 
  • 83.6% (8,318) of respondents report currently paying for or receiving curbside recycling collection.2 
  • 88.1% (8,764) of respondents describe themselves as “diligent” or “conscientious” recyclers.3 
  • 86.9% (8,648) of respondents consider it “essential” or “important” to have curbside recycling services as part of Virginia Beach Waste Management services.4    

It’s no surprise that these recycling-aware residents also take action, as 86% of respondents reported that their household puts out recycling for curbside collection every other week.5 Another 35.5% reported using a recycling drop-off center in Virginia Beach “less than once a month” or more often.6 

What We Heard 

The top-ranked option was Option 1: Same services, but at an increased cost, as 36.2% of respondents ranked this option first or most favorable, with an average ranking of 1.32 (with 1 being the priority).7 Of the respondents who ranked that option first, 55.6% reported being able to pay $1-4 monthly, while 35.3% reported being able to pay $5-10 monthly for curbside recycling.​8 

  • Option 1: Same Services, Increased Cost​ 
    • 36.2% (3,602) of respondents ranked this option first. This option also had the highest average ranking of 1.32.​7 
    • Of the respondents who ranked this as their top option, 55.6% reported being able to pay $1-$4 monthly, and 35.3% reported being able to pay $5-$10 monthly.8​ 
  • Option 3: Opt-in/Opt-Out Program​ 
    • 12.8 % (1,276) of respondents ranked this option first, with an average ranking of 1.81.7  
  • Option 2: Eliminate Curbside, Increase Convenience Centers​ 
    • 5.3% (530) of respondents ranked this option first, with the lowest average ranking of all options at 2.43.7  

Note: Percentages do not sum to 100% because 45.6% (4,540) of respondents did not answer the option-ranking question.7 

Of all respondents, 44.5% reported being able to pay $1-$4 monthly in total, while 23.6% of all respondents report they are able to pay $5-$10 total every month for curbside service. 

  • 44.5% (4,428) of all respondents report $1-$4 monthly as the total amount they would be able to pay for the convenience of curbside recycling collection.8 
  • 23.6% (2,345) report $5-$10 monthly as the total they are able to pay.8 

In the open comment section, the overarching theme was the need to increase awareness of and participation in recycling through ongoing education and community engagement. Other comments within the survey and on social media dealt with misunderstandings about what you can recycle, the recycling process and why costs are increasing. The biggest misunderstanding of all, though, seemed to be that the City is getting rid of the recycling program. Recycling is here to stay, and information to refute these misconceptions was presented during the survey period in videos, blog articles and more. 

The Recycling Update presentation from the above video is posted to SpeakUpVB.com.

Next Steps 

The feedback gathered through The State of Recycling Survey provides invaluable guidance to leadership for shaping the future recycling program and proposed FY24-25 budget. The proposed budget will be presented to City Council on March 19 and will be available online at budget.virginiabeach.gov. Residents have the opportunity to comment on the proposed budget at two public hearings in April. 

To be notified of future public input opportunities or for updates on the budget process, sign up for the City’s Be in the Know email newsletter

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Referenced Survey Questions: 

1 “What is your primary residence type?” 9,795 respondents. 

2 “Do you currently pay for or receive curbside recycling collection from the City of Virginia Beach at your home?” 9,722 respondents. 

3 “How would you describe your recycling habits?” 9,696 respondents. 

4 “How important do you think it is to have curbside recycling services as part of Virginia Beach waste management services?” 9,478 respondents. 

5 “How often does your household put out recycling for curbside collection?” 9,478 respondents. 

6 “How often do you use a recycling drop-off location in Virginia Beach?” 9,674 respondents. 

7 “Please rank the following options for changes to the Virginia Beach recycling program, with 1 being your most favorable choice and 3 being your least favorable choice.” 5,408 respondents. 

8 “If you selected an option of increased fees for curbside recycling collection, what total amount would you be able to pay for the convenience of curbside recycling collection?” 8,982 respondents. 

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