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Curbside recycling will be on November’s ballot in Chesapeake, council decides

A recycling bin outside Chesapeake City Hall in 2022.
Photo by Katherine Hafner
A recycling bin outside Chesapeake City Hall in 2022.

Council members voted to create a nonbinding voter referendum asking residents whether they support a new monthly fee to reinstate curbside recycling service.

Ever since Chesapeake council members voted to do away with curbside recycling a few years ago, a passionate group of citizens has pushed them to reconsider.

Now, voters will have their say.

City Council voted Tuesday to create a referendum on this November’s ballot that will ask residents whether they support bringing back curbside service – by adding a new monthly fee of up to $10.

The referendum is advisory, meaning city leaders will survey residents’ opinion but are not obligated to follow the outcome of the vote.

In fact, council members already believe the question may become moot because of impending changes to waste disposal regionwide.

Chesapeake is currently the only one of Hampton Roads’ seven major cities that does not charge for trash or recycling collection.

The city voted to nix the curbside recycling program in 2021, opting to redirect the $2 million in funding at the time for a public safety pay plan.

At the time, city staff asked the council to consider a waste fee to fund curbside recycling, but members voted against it.

Chesapeake’s wrangling fits into larger discussions around the region as curbside recycling gets more expensive for local governments. Virginia Beach doubled its monthly recycling fee this year after a survey showed residents were willing to pay it.

But on a broader scale, Hampton Roads’ trash is about to get an overhaul.

The Southeastern Public Service Authority, which handles trash for the Southside, is currently deciding on a vendor for a long-term waste disposal contract.

With space running out at the Regional Landfill in Suffolk, the goal is to turn to more innovative methods.

Chesapeake City Manager Chris Price told council this week that could include a single-bin approach, meaning residents would no longer separate trash from recycling.

Emerging technologies use artificial intelligence to comb through trash and identify recyclable items – a system that just launched at a recycling plant in Portsmouth that is vying for SPSA’s contract.

That would negate the city’s need for a new recycling fee, council members said. But they still want to hear what voters think.

The wording of the upcoming voter referendum still has to be approved by the Chesapeake Circuit Court.

Here’s what’s proposed: “Should City Council adopt an ordinance imposing a mandatory fee of up to $10 per month on all households that receive City trash service in order to reestablish curbside recycling for those households only?

Katherine is WHRO’s climate and environment reporter. She came to WHRO from the Virginian-Pilot in 2022. Katherine is a California native who now lives in Norfolk and welcomes book recommendations, fun science facts and of course interesting environmental news.

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