Students adapt to dump site closures across the county

Businesses and landlords offer solutions to students and county residents


Dumpsters sit piled high with trash while loose garage litters the area surrounding it. Photo by Coleman Martinson.

Coleman Martinson

Students who live off campus in the county might have to change how they dispose of their trash as the county closes four unstaffed collection centers.

The unstaffed Buffalo Creek collection center on U.S. Route 11 closed Wednesday, and the Rural Valley Road and Bunker Hill Mill Road locations are set to close this week. The Timber Ridge Collection Center will close Dec. 3.

Rockbridge County, with nearly 600 square miles, does not offer curbside pick-up for trash service as the City of Lexington does. County residents have to dispose of their trash themselves. Off-campus students who live in the county said this is a big change. 

“Basically the removal of the unmanned trash dumps directly affects us financially,” Jim Barton, ‘20, said. “With their removal, we will be forced to rely on our landlord’s trash service, which costs $200 a month. This is an outrage.”

Some businesses and landlords will pick up trash for an added fee. A lot of students opt into this service.

“My landlord gathers our trash from an on-site location, and then disposes of the trash,” McKinley Hamilton, ‘20, said.

Klean Earth, a business in the area that picks up trash from people’s homes, said this could mean new business.

“We’re hoping [that] over time, people see how inconvenient it is and they come to us,” said Kathy Jennings in a phone interview. She said the business has around 200 customers in the Rockbridge area. 

The four locations closing now leaves residents with 17 unstaffed collection centers around the county which are open 24/7, according to the county website. Many are far away from Washington and Lee’s campus.

But the county now has seven staffed collection centers, including a new Fancy Hill center on Route 11 South, near Natural Bridge.

The collection centers that are staffed are now open every day but Tuesday, including Wednesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The county has wanted to close unstaffed dump sites for years because they are roadside eyesores and can attract wild animals, said County Administrator Spencer Suter. Another concern is that some residents dispose of items that are not permitted, such as tires, dead animals and furniture.  Some businesses use them, as well, which is not permitted. Suter said 12 citations for illegal dumping have been issued this year.

A previous attempt in March 2017 to close the unstaffed collection centers was abandoned after citizen backlash.

The new Fancy Hill recycling and trash collection center opened Wednesday for county residents but some are afraid the closings could lead to more trash on the side of the roads.

“People are lazy, and people will not take the extra time,” said county resident John Crutchfield as he was throwing away trash earlier this week at the Bunker Hill Mill Road Collection Center. “It’s not a huge deal for me, but I’m worried about dumping. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.”

The board and the solid waste and recycling manager hope that the additional hours on Tuesday will provide more access to residents and cut back on illegal dumping.

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran on the Rockbridge Report website.