Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Integrated Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Carolyn Wells, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David Buckalew, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Robert C. Key


Everything we do to the land, air, and water affects our quality of life on this planet. Since the beginning of time, human beings have generated and discarded trash. As the pollution of the United States continues to grow so have the problems with our nation's landfills. Americans throw away an average of 3.5 pounds of garbage per person each day, or approximately 160 million tons of it per year. Studies have been conducted that show that the majority of our trash consists of paper, yard trimmings, metal, plastics, glass, food wastes, rubber, leather, textiles, and miscellaneous inorganic materials.

Why do we want to recycle anything when we can more easily throw it away?Historically, recycling has occurred whenever the societal need to do so arises and when legislation requires it. Recycling aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduces pollution to the land, air and water, reduces the impact of alternative disposal methods such as landfilling and incineration, and preserves natural wildlife habitats and ecosystems. Currently recycling is performed voluntarily with no mandatory requirements on the general populace. Lund (1993) states that recycling is the act of extracting materials from the waste stream and reusing them. This generally includes collection, separation, processing, the creation of new products or materials, and marketing.

This study involves an effort to learn more about the current methods and practice of recycling in Virginia. To better understand the entire cyclical process, the study was limited to four commodities (paper, glass, plastics and rubber) within the south central counties of Prince Edward, Amelia, Buckingham, and Cumberland. Information obtained from this research will be shared with the surrounding communities to increase their awareness of the fates of recycled materials and their reintroduction into the marketplace.

By studying the recycling loop, it can be shown that consumers are being made more aware of what materials are recyclable and their benefits. However, the more rural an area (without convenient metropolitan connections), the less likely is the recycling of any material. Economic and educational factors of a location also influence recycling levels in this same manner. Less recycling occurs in locations with a lower educational and economic status, where the communities are more willing to accept additional outside trash into their communities to bolster their local economy.



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