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ONARCHITECTURE- Coming soon! van der Linde's amazing recycling machine

Published February 14, 2008 in issue 0707 of the Hook
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On a ten-acre tract of land near Zion Crossroads, Peter van der Linde plans to finally open a $10-million, 100,000-square-foot recycling center, featuring a 270-foot state-of-the-art sorting machine, which should be operational in mid-May.
Two weeks ago, we wrote about a local builder who was shocked to discover how much perfectly good construction material was being discarded on job sites ["American dumpster: Builders deep-six too much material," January 31]. In fact, builder Darren Young discovered over $1,000 worth of usable lumber at the site of a prominent new development, and after retrieving it with the construction manager's permission, the Seattle native agreed to speak out about the issue on the condition that the Hook not reveal the name of the developer.

"I didn't come here looking for materials," said Young, "but I couldn't understand why they were throwing it away. It seemed so wasteful."

Young was also shocked to discover the dismal state of local recycling programs.  

 "Recycling here is a real pain in the butt," he said. "In Seattle, people are given 55-gallon containers with wheels to put their recyclables in. Trash cans are small, and recycling bins are big-- it's just the opposite here."

Local builder and businessman Peter van der Linde couldn't agree more. 

"People have lived for years in recycling frustration," says van der Linde, who also owns a trash container business. In fact, the dumpster Young went diving into belongs to Van der Linde Container Rentals. "It's a pain in the... neck."

As a builder for 30 years, he also agrees with Young about the volume of materials discarded on job-sites. "It's always been a big problem," he says.  

Three years ago, van der Linde decided to do something about it. On a 10-acre tract of land near Zion Crossroads, he plans to finally open a $10-million, 100,000-square-foot recycling center, featuring a 270-foot state-of-the-art sorting machine, which should be operational in mid-May. 

"This will be the opposite of the way it's done now," he says. "You'll just throw everything into one container, no need to separate or sort it. You don't need to lift a finger. We'll do it." 

He pauses for emphasis. 

"Now, everything changes, now recycling is easy," he says.

Indeed, while both the city and the county offer recycling services, the activity is nearly a full-time job. In addition to sorting and separating  glass, metal, aluminum cans, newspapers, magazines, and catalogs for the city's curbside service, telephone books, file stock, and mixed paper must be taken to the McIntire Road Recycling Center. In 2003, the County stopped its curbside recycling service because it had become too expensive. In its absence, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority published a guide directing folks to different facilities for different materials, many of which can be dropped off only at certain times. The recycling guide is three single-spaced pages long.

In contrast, van der Linde says his recycling machine can can sort 15 separate recyclable materials, including cardboard, paper, plastic, cement, carpet and pad, glass, metals, brick, block, yard waste, wood, drywall, asphalt, even styrofoam. And anything intact will be sent to Habitat for Humanity.

"This machine will recycle 90 percent of what goes into it," he says.  

Indeed, the new venture will make it especially easy for all those developments tossing good lumber into his dumpsters. "Don't change anything you're doing," he says he'll tell builders. "It's business as usual. Just toss it all in there, and we'll sort it."

"Our lives just got a lot easier" says Alec Cargile, president of Lithic Construction, who says he's been waiting for someone to do this for years. "It's fantastic what he's doing, because for anyone who chooses to use this service, it will now be effortless to recycle."

"I think it's a terrific idea because he's using the same containers he's already using, and he already has his disposal business in place," says Ned Ormsby, a project manager with Lithic. "There's no need to retrain your guys; you just toss it all in there." 

"I think it's a powerful thing he's doing," Cargile adds. "If  people really start using his service, it could have a huge impact on the whole county." 

VanderLinde says he'll rent various container sizes without charge to neighborhoods, schools, municipalities, or anyone else who wants one nearby, and then charge a standard transportation and tonnage fee. Additionally, there will be no-charge drop-off containers at the facility itself.

As for his spectacular machine, van der Linde says it was the missing link, as inferior machines and hand-sorting trash has been wildly inefficient. "In the last seven years or so, these separation machines have really been perfected," he says. "I did a lot of research on them, and I believe this one I bought is the ultimate machine."

Nearly the size of a small shopping center, the machine and the new facility will require 15 people to operate, he says. Manufactured by Sherbrooke Ltd., a Canadian company, the new machine uses optics, electromagnets, and other technologies to identify objects to be recycled. The machine can sort and separate recyclables from thousands of pounds of trash in a fraction of the time it would take to hand sort, and it deposits them neatly in separate bins. According to industry experts, the machine's ability to yield more recyclable materials faster could begin to make recycling profitable. 

"There's a rapidly emerging market for recyclables," van der Linde says. "I'll just offer to supply the materials and then we'll have to see what happens."

Clearly, the idea of responding to Young's lament-- and that of frustrated recyclers everywhere-- appears to be worth the risk for van der Linde.

"It's just something that's long overdue," he says. "It's a real feel-good undertaking."



Anonymous in Fluvanna2/15/2008 3:04:25 PM

Once again the Fluvanna County portion of Zions Crossroads is servicing contractors that work and create the trash and debris in the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and other localities besides Fluvanna! This facility will be added to the already existing Allied Waste Management (AWM) trash facility once again servicing trash haulers/contractors. None of this will benefit residents of Fluvanna County. Mr. van der linde makes this seem terrific, convenient, and environmentally friendly for everyone. However, to the residents that live along the roads where these trucks will be traveling on a daily basis we will only see the negative side of this facility along with AWM. We will hear speeding trucks, see debris falling from these trucks into citizens' yards either from the trucks not being covered properly or from covered trucks that are over loaded. Guess who has to pick up this debris and throw it in their trash for which we have to pay someone to pick up--the citizens not Mr. van der linde! Now is this facility environmentally friendly after all? Will you personally ensure that the people who use the facility are courteous drivers and won't speed or liter-I don't think so! As for free drop off, I won't believe anything until I actually see a safe location for Fluvanna citizens to drop off recycling and other small household materials for free, separated from the contractor drop off site. If this doesn't occur then I wouldn't risk my life to go to this facility and drop anything off for fear of being run over by these speeding trucks with debris flying out. My debris will end up in the trash. Once again is this environmentally friendly?!

Anonymous in Fluvanna2/15/2008 3:13:09 PM

I meant to say in the last two sentences above: These debris which don't belong to me will end up being thrown in MY trash. Once again is this environmentally friendly?! Also, who will pick the debris along Fluvanna County roads and in citizens' yards to take to the facility for recylcling?

V. Wilson2/15/2008 11:30:11 PM


Don't be upset with this, be upset at Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville.

Both of which "refuse" ...no pun intended...to be responsible for their own garbage.

Albemarle has a transfer station at the former Ivy landfill, however, it is so slow and expensive that it can be seen as a deliberate way of scaring off commercial hualers. Scaring them to Fluvanna.

Also, this facility does not make garbage. People make garbage. The number and frequency of trucks is a function of amount of garbage. Since this facility and AMW are on the same cul-de-sac, there would be no net change in traffic. All the trash is already going by your home.

How is Fluvanna benefited? Any time you develop real-eatate commercially you are at a huge advantage over residential development. This facility will not put kids in school, etc. Jobs will be created, and other taxes will be paid.

Without commercial development Fluvanna = poverty.

If you don't like the commercial development, sell and move to a residential area. Whether you realize it or not, if you own land on that road in Fluvanna you are a millionaire, it's geting quite valuable.

Anonymous 2/19/2008 9:03:30 AM

V. Wilson: I absolutely agree with the lack of responsibility on the part of the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County concerning their trash and contractor debris. However, I built my house approximately 12 years ago, just off Route 250, 5 MILES away from Zions Crossroads, before any of this stuff was built, and I experience the negative effects of these facilities on a daily basis (i.e. plastic bags in ditches and trees, contractor debris in my yard, etc.). None of the three localities really care about the environment as they claim to because if they did then the trash would be picked up! I do live in a residential area but industrial is starting to pop up on a scattered basis along Route 250. I wish I could sell but this property was passed down from generation to generation. Plus, I can't afford to move especially given the weak real estate market, high prices for housing in other areas, and high gas prices. I also have aging parents in the area. Why should I sell anyway because the businesses should be held accountable and localities be held accountable to citizens for what they approve and take action concering complaints of this type. They are not going to chase me out especially since I was born and raised in Fluvanna County. The only good thing is I can plant more trees as buffers so I won't have to see or hear these trucks. You also have a good point about holding onto the property because it will only go up in value may be then I can afford to move or convert it to rental property. As far as commerical development equals revenue--this is true. Fluvanna County should have done what Louisa County did and actually build something that benefits citizens where good, clean businesses and jobs are created where we can put our money back into Fluvanna County. They could have collected property taxes PLUS sales taxes. Industrial businesses don't meet this criteria--only property taxes. Right now most citizens work in Charlottesville or Albemarle County and this is where our money stays due to the lack of grocery stores, service oriented businesses, restaurants, etc. Oh well, at least I will be able to spend my money in the future in Louisa County--not Fluvanna County!

Jim Harshaw2/19/2008 10:27:37 AM

Good journalism Dave! It's great to see this stuff getting the importance it deserves in the news headlines.

Jim Harshaw

Albemarle Window Cleaning

Anonymous in Fluvanna2/19/2008 1:39:00 PM

If these trucks would be courteous enough take Interstate 64 at Zions Crossroads to go to and from the facilities rather than using Route 250 then my complaints wouldn't be an issue. Especially since the facilities are located within one mile of the Zions Crossroads exchange. Isn't this why they located here in the first place?!

V Wilson2/19/2008 8:50:39 PM


Agreed the blowing litter is awful. Fluvanna is like the wild west when it comes to law enforcement. The garbage trucks would get busted in Albemarle for that much litter.

That area has also become burglary capital of the Piedmont lately.

If you ever find identifyable trash on your land, call the person or company it is connected to. "Oh, you hired Vanderlinde for your dumpster?"

Point is, these trucks don't litter if properly tarped and not overloaded.

Why don't they go I64? Seems like it would be faster. Maybe a lot of it comes from construction at Glenmore? Just guessing here.

I know people in the garbage biz, and they are not happy about the situation either. It costs a fortune to go to Zion Crossroads all the time. And now that the Fluvanna landfill is closed, you will probably see more garbage trucks.

Anonymous in Fluvanna2/20/2008 9:14:55 AM

V. Wilson

You have provided useful information and have made really good points. Thank you. However, the trash doesn't come from Glenmore. I rarely see them on 250 going to or coming from Glenmore. I follow these trucks on a daily basis in the morning and afternoon (to and from Charlottesville for work) and they take I-64 West to Charlottesville and East from Charlottesville via the Boyds Tavern interchange not at the Zions Crossroads interchange. I see them going towards the facility with full loads and back to Charlottesville with empty loads. When you have time, travel Route 250 East/West and the exchange at Boyds Tavern and you will see the roads are all torn up on the sides, deteriorating conditions, and trash along with sides. The roads were just paved approximately two years ago. I guess when you live on the border of two counties you aren't exactly a priority for law enforcement or VDOT.

Gene Cosgriff12/5/2008 4:04:53 AM

To:Peter van der Linde,

I was interviewed by Mr. Van der Linde back in 1978 for his book, "Time Bomb." Is this the same Peter van der Linde?

I would like to converse with him, if possible. Please email me at [email protected]

Thank you.

me3/18/2009 7:01:04 AM

The no-charge drop off policy is great.

The existing landfill charges. We need an alternative to the cramped McIntire facility.

I don't why Charlottesville considers itself 'green'. Recycling is not a priority here.

Sigh8/20/2009 11:32:45 AM

Given how much van der Linde's home building opeation denuded the environment over the past 30-35 years, this is at most a drop in the bucket to make up for that impact.

and he sure seems to put a lot of faith in secondary markets allowing him to "recycle 100% of the material" he receives. if he did he, he would be the first person in history to achieve that end.

and most of what he is doing is downcycling, not recycling.

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