Here’s how you can save the environment and your money by recycling

ROANOKE, Va. – This story is part of a series called “Solutionaries”, where we set out to explore innovative ways people are working to fight problems we’re all facing. Inflation, affordable housing, the climate crisis, and much more. You can find hours of stories here.


Our Solutionaries team is finding unique ways people are dealing with trash from cleaning caves that have been used as dumpsters, to taking plastic bags and repurposing them.

‘Recycling Right’ can save taxpayer money and the environment.

“You could be a proud member of this here bucket and it says ‘thank you’ every day. Thanks for keeping Salem clean,” said Mary Dolan, holding up an orange bucket. “My husband calls me a trashy lady.”

The former middle school teacher spends a couple of hours every week picking up trash as a volunteer in Salem.

“I’m a COVID long hauler. My health has been damaged, hopefully not permanently. I had it about a year and a half ago and I’m not confident going back into a classroom right now,” said Dolan.

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The recycling she picks up is emptied and goes to the RDS plant in Roanoke, where it’s sorted and processed.

“All localities have to meet a 25% minimum recycling. So you take all your garbage that you haul to the to the landfill, you divide that by 25% and your locality has to recycle a minimum of 25%,” said Mike Tyler, Salem Director of Streets and General Maintenance.

That’s Virginia law. Salem’s recycling goes way above that minimum.

For the past five years, Salem has been between 32 and almost 40-percent for recycling. For all of Virginia in 2020, the recycling rate came to 45%

Tyler says recycling the right things is important.

“Everybody thinks it’s plastic and it’s got a recycling label on it so I can recycle it. And…

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