Economic Recovery? More Waste into Virginia Landfills after Years of Decline

Date: June 12, 2011

Source: Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

The volume of waste received by the state of Virginia's landfills increased slightly in 2010, the first such increase since 2006, according to a new report. The report by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality documents 19.7 million tons of waste disposed in Virginia's landfills last year, a modest 1 percent increase from 19.5 million tons disposed in 2009. The total includes waste collected by municipalities, construction and yard waste, tires, petroleum-contaminated soil and other items. While the total increased, it is still the second lowest amount since 2000 and far below the 25.1 million tons disposed in 2006. The report attributes the relative decline primarily to the economy, especially its impact on construction. Construction waste disposal in Virginia has declined by 25 percent since 2006. An increase in the state's recycling rate to 38.5 percent in 2009, up from 29.8 percent in 2004 also helps explain some of the drop in disposal. That was offset this year by a nearly 30 percent increase in waste imports, which in 2010 rose to 5.5 million tons from 4.2 million tons the year before. Most out-of-state waste is received from Maryland, New York, the District of Columbia, North Carolina and New Jersey, according to the report.

See also: "Waste Volume in Virginia Declines Again in 2009, Mirrors National Trend," (

Solid Waste Managed in Virginia during Calendar Year 2010


Section 10.1-1413.1 of the Code of Virginia requires the Department of Environmental Quality (Department or DEQ) to prepare a report by June 30 of each year describing the amount of solid waste disposed of in the Commonwealth during the preceding calendar year. Facilities that have solid waste management permits are required to provide the Department with information to prepare this report. As of May 20, 2011, 203 permitted facilities, one facility with an emergency permit (EMG) and one facility with an experimental permit (EXP) provided information on their activities for calendar year 2010 for this report. One permitted facility did not provide any information.

Based on the facilities' reports (excluding the EMG and EXP), a total of 19,705,417.22 tons of solid waste was received at Virginia's permitted solid waste management facilities during calendar year 2010. Of this total, 14,155,957.11 tons originated in the Commonwealth and 5,549,460.11 tons originated from other jurisdictions.

Municipal solid waste (MSW) constituted 12,931,911.38 tons of the total amount of solid waste received during calendar year 2010. Of the total MSW received, 8,904,306.22 tons originated in the Commonwealth and 4,027,605.16 tons originated from other jurisdictions.

Five jurisdictions accounted for 97.53% of all waste received from out-of-state sources: Maryland (39.38%); New York (26.96%); Washington, D.C. (19.76%); North Carolina (7.43%); and New Jersey (4.00%).

During calendar year 2010, the total solid waste and Construction/Demolition/Debris (CDD) waste received from out -of-state increased by 3.72%, and 7.98% respectively, compared to 2009 amounts; the total MSW from out-of-state decreased by 5.95%. Waste originating in Virginia during the same period, the total solid waste and MSW received decreased by 0.38% and 0.39% respectively and CDD increased by 0.75% compared to 2009 amounts.

Of the solid waste managed in Virginia during the year (excluding the one EMG report and the one EXP report), 76.81% or 12,416,468.52 tons was landfilled on-site, 12.65% or 2,044,779.60 tons was incinerated on-site, and the rest was managed by other means (see Table 3). Of all solid waste received at Virginia facilities during the year, 65.63% was MSW, 16.49% was CDD waste, and the remainder was other types of waste.

Permitted solid waste management facilities reported that 6.27% of the waste they managed was diverted from disposal by recycling or mulching. Most recycling occurs at facilities other than permitted waste management facilities. Local governments provide more complete information on the recycling of waste generated in Virginia. For more detailed information about recycling rates in Virginia see the Calendar Year 2009 Virginia Annual Recycling Rate Report at A report on the statewide recycling rate for calendar year 2010 will be issued later this year.

Permitted facilities were required to report on their available capacity and the expected life of the facilities based on current disposal rates. This information shows that at current rates, the remaining available landfill capacity is as follows: MSW - 20.3 years; CDD - 20.5 years; and non-captive industrial - 7.1 years. These projections do not account for population increases, changes in waste generation or disposal rates, or the closing of older MSW disposal units pursuant to statute.

At the option of the facility owner, Va. Code§10.1-1413.1 provides that the data collected may include an accounting of the facility's economic benefits to the locality where the facility is located. Ten facilities provided such information for calendar year 2010.

The Department received one report from the City of Charlottesville pursuant to its EMG permit to handle woody debris. The Department also received one report from EnerSol Technologies, Inc. pursuant to its EXP permit to construct and test a gasification system.

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