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Help Recycle More Right

Posted on May 10, 2016 by | Comments Off

Bales of paper at Bay Disposal

Bales of paper at Bay Disposal

Single stream recycling is largely available for residents and businesses throughout most of Hampton Roads. This type of recycling allows people to put all types of materials from paper to plastic to cardboard in a single recycling container. Single stream recycling has been a wonderful convenience to our residents and has reduced the use of landfill space. It has also provided valuable materials for reprocessing and manufacturing new products. Recycling, as an industry, is running into some challenges. World markets (particularly in China) have seen a downturn in commodity prices: oil prices worldwide have declined decreasing the value of plastics; newsprint is not in demand as it once was; and finally there is contamination of  recycled materials. We may feel powerless to change oil presses or demand for recycled newsprint, but contamination is something we can all help to reduce and prevent.

Did you know that during local recycling audits contamination of single stream recycling can range between 6 percent and 30 percent of materials collected? This is according to periodic audits of residential recycling collected at curbside in Newport News. This means that of the curbside recycling collected, up to 30 percent should have never been recycled in the first place.

Most of contamination is preventable. There are several “frequent offenders” that do not belong in ANY local curbside recycling bin including plastic grocery bags, Styrofoam, dog leashes, garden hoses, clothing, diapers, food contaminated paper/cardboard (like pizza boxes), and wax coated cardboard (like milk/juice cartons). While some of these items are recyclable in programs in other parts of the country, they are not here in Hampton Roads. Some of these items, such as plastic grocery bags, are recyclable at grocery stores and other retailers.

Contamination causes a great deal of problems for the businesses (called Material Recovery Facilities or MRFs) responsible for processing our items recycled at curbside. Misplaced materials can cause equipment to jam and possible injury to personnel. Did you know that plastic grocery bags in your curbside recycling carts can shut down a facility for up to two hours per day? Plastic bags have to be cut out of the gears and moving parts of the machinery. Other contamination like food waste, for example, can significantly devalue recycled materials. This causes a major cost to the processors and that cost is passed on to the cities, counties, businesses and other organizations that provide recycling program.

So what can you do? “Recycle More Right” by knowing what goes into your curbside recycling bin. You can download a helpful flyer with information on what goes into your recycling container and share it with neighbors and friends. Participate in a recycling audit or do it yourself and see how much contamination is in your own recycling cart.

The next Newport News recycling audit will be announced shortly. The public and civic organizations are invited to participate in the effort. For more information, contact the Newport News Resource Recovery Center at 757-886-7612.

Blog contributed by Daniel A. Baxter, Business Recycling Coordinator for Newport News and Chairman of the Recycling & Beautification Committee.

Posted in: Community events, Going Green, Household tips, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Freshwater Finds: Making Our Water Use More Sustainable

Posted on May 4, 2016 by | Comments Off

Harwood's Mill Reservoir  (Credit: VDGIF)

Newport News Waterworks Harwood’s Mill Reservoir
(Credit: VDGIF)

Water is for much more than just drinking. It is essential for industries of all kinds, from manufacturing and medicine, to cleaning and waste disposal. While various levels of purity are required for different processes, all must meet certain levels in order to be viable and safe.

Freshwater Today

Each individual US citizen uses roughly 100 gallons of water per day. This does not take into account leaks in 5-10 percent of households that amount to about 90 gallons of lost water per day.

During this decade, in a combined survey of residential, industrial, freshwater, and saline water sources, it has been estimated that America uses 350 billion gallons per day. This is down from the all-time high in 1980 of 440 bgd. However, the problem remains: we are using far more freshwater than is sustainable in the long term.

Around the World

Developing nations, who collectively have industrial growth triple that of the United States, are far worse off. Poor infrastructure, improper sewage and sanitation, and sparse regulation means fecal matter contamination is dangerously high for one-third of the current global population. One of the most viable options for arresting global disease and famine is in maintaining sustainable freshwater sources. Luckily, Americans can contribute to this cause without ever leaving their homes.

What You Can Do
Among the many solutions proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most are designed to make freshwater more sustainable while saving you money on your water and sewage utilities. These actions allow you to save up to $170 of the average $500 you spend on water utilities each year.

  • Look for plumbing products with the WaterSense label. This program was developed in cooperation with the EPA. The program’s products are up to 20% more efficient.
  • Have your plumbing checked for leaks. Leaks do not just costs you money, they also lead to mold, sanitation problems, erosion of your home’s foundation, and illness. Be vigilant about checking for leaks
  • Consider environmentally-friendly lawn care practices that reduce water needs. Runoff from your gutters, for example, be collected in rain barrels for outdoor water uses.
  • Be sure to turn off your tap when not in use, especially when you are brushing your teeth or washing dishes.

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger for Candescent Well Service, LLC. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. Brooke is available via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

Posted in: Clean and safe tap water, Outdoor tips, Using water wisely

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Come and Find Us for Drinking Water Week!

Posted on April 22, 2016 by | Comments Off

Drinking Water Week is right around the corner and we are celebrating in a big way. On May 3rd there will be two pop-up events in Hampton Roads, one on the southside and another on the peninsula. Where exactly will you find us? Well, we aren’t telling. You’ll just have to come and find us…

Every day during the week of April 25-29, tune into HOT 100.5, EAGLE 97.3 and 92.9 The Wave to get clues on where we’ll be hiding with our giant magic faucets. Yes, you read that right…GIANT MAGIC faucets. You can also get the clues by visiting or following us on Facebook or Twitter. If you are one of the first 200 people to find out where we’re hiding, you’ll receive an reusable shopping bag and water bottle. Additional prizes like a four pack of passes to Ocean Breeze Water Park will also be available to those who can crack our riddles.   Floating Faucet 1


The Drinking Water Week promotion is presented in conjunction with Help to Others (H2O) and Give Local 757. H2O is a community-based program that assists families who are faced with losing their water or wastewater services due to a financial crisis such as a death, disability or loss of employment. The one-time helping hand is made possible by your donations and every penny goes directly towards helping a family in need. This is the first year that H2O has joined with other local non-profits to participate in Give Local 757, the largest one day fundraising event in Hampton Roads. In addition to raising awareness about local non-profits and the work they do, Give Local 757 provides an opportunity for non-profits to win additional prizes and awards. Your donation of just $10 or more to H2O on May 3rd will help give the gift of water to a local family in need.

H2O Give Local 757Could you imagine your day without access to tap water? From the moment we wake up until the time we go to bed, water is the cornerstone of our lives. It’s how we clean ourselves and sanitize our surroundings. It’s how we flush and scrub and quench our thirst. It also supports our community in a number of ways you probably never think about. Like water for fire hydrants that keep us safe from fires and as a resources that helps attract new businesses to the region. Our magic faucets are a bit of a riddle because having tap water on demand 24/7 isn’t magic. There’s a huge system at work behind the scenes.  That system is responsible for pumping water through a complex system of processes that churn out clean, safe tap water for our convenience.

Bottom line: Don’t take your access to tap water for granted.

  • Read and understand what you’re paying for on your water utility bill. It’s not just about the water you use, it’s also about maintaining the 6,500 miles of pipes and other infrastructure required to deliver tap water to your faucet.
  • Keep things in perspective. You can use 5,000 gallons of tap water a month for under $60 in Hampton Roads. Compared with the average cable, internet or cell phone bill, tap water is quite the bargain.
  • Conserve water every day. There are literally a hundred different ways you can conserve water. Whether it’s turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth or installing a rain barrel, make sure you actively conserve water each day.
  • Provide a family in crisis with the most basic necessity, water, by donating to Help to Others on May 3rd for Give Local 757 or anytime at
  • Check back for clues on where to find the magic faucets on May 3rd and help us celebrate our most  valuable resource!

Posted in: Clean and safe tap water, Community events

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The One and Only

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askHRgreen-plannting-page headerOur one-and-only-world has taken a beating from its inhabitants.  7.4 billion people have put stress on most of the resources – water, soil, air. It seems nearly  impossible to control.  So what can only-one-person do?  Will it matter? 

The Hampton Roads cities and counties that support  have some answers to these two questions.  As one person you can choose to drink tap over bottled water or reduce “vampire” electronics by utilizing power strips to cut off electronics. You can put less stress on our resources by reducing consumption, reducing waste and reducing pollution. There are so many tips right at your finger tips for doing these things and understanding what only-one-person can do.

The Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense program could inspire you to go beyond conserving to restoring the one-and-only-world there is. They suggest planting a natural lawn and garden with mulch and drought tolerant plants to conserve water and create wildlife habitat. You can choose to let Mother Nature water your lawn an inch a week and prevent overwatering.You can check for and repair household leaks, the silent water hogs of the modern world! You can do all these things and more.

The answer is ‘Yes, it matters what you do.”  If you are the only-one-person, then go celebrate Earth Day!

Blog post contributed by Jerry Hoddinott with Chesapeake Public Utilities.

Posted in: Clean and safe tap water, Going Green, Household tips, Using water wisely

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Butterfly Garden opens at Bennett’s Creek Park

Posted on April 19, 2016 by | Comments Off

 IMG_0331It’s that time of year to get outside and enjoy the beautiful spring weather. For those of us who love to garden the season has already frantically begun. So much to do and so little time!!! For our local butterfly expert, Deb Cady – Master Gardener and a Director of The Butterfly Society of Virginia, it means the start of butterfly season. Deb raises many varieties of butterflies and releases them in various gardens around town including her own in north Suffolk, where she has transformed her garden into a butterfly haven. This year however, there is a new location she plans to release and establish a thriving butterfly community and that’s the new Butterfly Garden at Bennett’s Creek Park. Deb and a small team of Suffolk Master Gardeners teamed up with Keep Suffolk Beautiful and Suffolk Parks and Recreation to install a small butterfly garden next to the children’s playground and they plan to open it for Earth Day on April 23rd at 11am. Deb is leading the installation of the garden which started on April 11th and will be completed the following week. Deb says, “There will be 70 plants for butterflies to enjoy and we hope that when people see the garden in bloom they will be inspired to plant their own host plants in their own yards and help to increase butterfly populations in the area.” Last year Deb reared more than 1,000 butterflies and about 500 were Monarchs. The Monarchs are a butterfly species suffering from massive population decrease due to loss of habitat and are a conservation priority for the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

IMG_0324Deb and Keep Suffolk Beautiful are inviting people of all ages to come out and see the garden in its infancy and learn about the wonderful world of butterflies. Suffolk Public Libraries and the Suffolk Art Gallery will be joining us to celebrate the garden and Earth Day with story-time, arts and crafts and an amazing face painter. We also have free tickets to give away to the Virginia Beach Aquarium, the Virginia Zoo and the Virginia Living Museum. The opening is from 11am to 1pm on April 23rd at Bennetts Creek Park. Please come out and have an enjoyable two hours in the park for Earth Day.

Blog post contributed by Wayne Jones, Litter Control Coordinator with the City of Suffolk.


Posted in: Beautification, Community events, For educators, Gardening, Going Green, Lawn and landscape

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