Michael Benedetto’s family-owned recycling facility has been processing household goods like aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles, cardboard and paper for more than 40 years. Benedetto, president and owner of Tidewater Fibre Corporation, said that for as long as he can remember, the items the facility could recycle remained the same.
TFC announced on Tuesday — America Recycles Day — that residents of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Suffolk can now add cartons to the list of accepted recyclables.
Due to a grant from the Carton Council of North America – an assembly of four major carton manufacturers working towards increasing carton recycling throughout the country – TFC was able to implement the new program, enabling the facility to recycle the food and beverage cartons.
“It was just over half a million dollars, and it allowed us to get the equipment we needed to move forward,” Benedetto said.
In recent years, the number of companies using cartons to package food and beverage items has grown significantly according to Matt Todd, senior consultant and project manager at Carton Council. Todd said that the rising use of cartons is why the council has worked to add more households to what they call the “pipeline to recovery,” or areas that have access to recycle the cartons.
“In the last five years, the Carton Council has gone from 18 percent of households having access to recycling to 60 percent of households having access through this process,” Todd said. “These cartons can now be more readily processed, just like plastic water bottles and aluminum cans.”
According to Jason Pelz, vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council and Tetra Pak Cluster Americas, more than 67 million households in the United States can now recycle the cartons.
The new initiative is necessary to TFC, Benedetto said, because it teaches area students environmental stewardship. Instead of throwing juice and milk cartons away after lunch, the students can now recycle the containers.
“Most of the time, kids are going to their parents and telling them that they’re throwing away things that can be recycled,” Benedetto said. “So now, we’re accepting cartons that these kids are using every day, recycling them and creating new products.”
After the cartons are processed and compressed into bales, they are sold to companies that use the materials to make tissues, building materials and various paper products.
To encourage residents to begin or continuing recycling, another new program will start early next year. Residents will be able to nominate their own streets and neighborhoods for good recycling practices through an online portal. Blocks and neighborhoods that meet the 80 percent recycling participation rate will be recognized by TFC every month.
“With Green Streets, we hope to promote environmental awareness and community pride,” Benedetto said.
Residents can submit their Green Street nominations online. The first streets and neighborhoods will be announced by TFC after the new year.
Amy Poulter can be reached at 757-620-2902.