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Mired in Red, Chesterfield Cuts the Green


Steven Hatter tried to go green; he really did.

Instead, the Chesterfield resident has a case of the blues because he says the county stopped him from doing his part to clean up the planet before he even got started.

"At my age, I hate freakin' recycling," he says, "but I was trying to do my civic duty." Hatter says he called to get his green recycling bin, but the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority told him no. "They told me Chesterfield in the fall of last year decided not to buy those anymore because of budget cutbacks."

Hatter admits he's too lazy to take the county's suggestion that he go to Wal-Mart and buy a cheap plastic storage bin to serve the same purpose as the county-issued green bin. So his aluminum cans and old newspapers go to the county landfill instead.

It ain't easy being green, agrees Barry Matthews, who coordinates the county's recycling program, but it's hardly as tough as Hatter makes out. Matthews says in September the county began turning away new recyclers because of county budget constraints, but he adds that as of last week, the moratorium on new customers -- and on issuing new bins — has lifted. Mostly.

"That's the good news, you know?" Matthews says. "It was just a case of finances and money."

All county departments during the past budget cycle were required to make 3 percent reductions in their spending. Those cuts continue to put curbs on curbside recycling, Matthews says, and only new houses within the existing recycling service area are able to get new bins. Others must fend for themselves.

For Hatter, that's just too much to ask.

"It's stupid," he says. "Here, everybody is talking green — Virginia Power is buying [incandescent] light bulbs — and here Chesterfield is saying we're just not going to do it. It seems like a bonehead move to me."

Matthews says providing new bins costs the county $50,000 a year. But not providing them does nothing to prevent customers in the recycling service area from doing their part to keep Chesterfield's landfills a little emptier.

"They don't even have to go out and buy a bin [to recycle]," Matthews says. "They can put [recycling] out in a cardboard box. They can put it out in paper bags — some people put it out in a laundry basket, for goodness sakes. If there's no lid on it and the recycler can tell it's obviously recyclables, they'll pick it up."

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