Fluvanna Faces: Andrea Johnson

By Harvey J. Sorum

Andrea, tell us a little about yourself prior to joining van der Linde Recycling.  

As an Army wife I spent 23 years following my husband around the globe.  Much of that time was in Germany and Norway where recycling is mandated and very advanced compared to the U.S.  When I would come home I could not believe what a terrible job we were doing.  In 2007 I went back to college and found myself studying recycling and decided to pursue it as a career.  In 2012, when my husband retired and we moved to Charlottesville, I finally got my chance.    

When did van der Linde start this business and by whom and why?  

Our facility is owned by Peter van der Linde who, as a contractor, built over 1,000 homes in Charlottesville and had dumpsters to support his contracting needs.  Pete saw the material in the dumpsters, and with a hope of recovering as much of it as possible, he started designing and building the facility we have now in 2004.  We opened in 2008.  Our orange dumpsters are still running strong and are our greatest source of material for our recycling facility. 

When did you join van der Linde Recycling and why?  What is your position today?  

I had business experience but none in recycling, so during my interview in October of 2012, I told Pete that I would do any job available and I meant it.  He assigned me to a mountain of mulch in the production yard and I got busy selling.  After that I started selling containers and compactors, initiated our first safety program and studied after hours for my Virginia State Waste Operator License.  I continually took on more responsibility over the years and in 2016 was promoted to COO and in 2018 I was promoted to CEO.  I am very lucky.  I absolutely love what I do.       

Recycling has been preached to us for many years.  Why is it so important?

There are so many resources that can be used again and again.  Recycling materials such as metals, paper, cardboard, wood and plastic, means that we are reducing the virgin material that must be pulled from the earth to make new products.  Also, as a society we generate an incredible amount of waste.  So much so that we are running out of space to put it.  Everything we can harvest, reuse or recycle increases the life of a landfill and saves landfill space for future generations.  Space that over time could potentially eliminate the need for another community to have a landfill in their backyard.  

This is a very real problem.  States like New York and New Jersey have run out of space.  Everyday trash is shipped out by truck, train or barge to Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama and even as far as Georgia.  Cumberland County, just south of us, has been fighting for years against a mega landfill that wants to run 24 hours a day 365 days a year taking primarily out-of-state trash.  Harvesting and recycling as much material as possible at the source, before transporting it, increases the recycling rate, reduces the carbon footprint and reduces the rate at which these landfills fill up.  Everything we can keep out matters.  

Quite often we see your trucks identified with the words “Recycle” and “Recovery” and “Sustainability” going to and from the van der Linde recycling plant but that’s about all we know about your operation.  Many of us want to know more about the processing of recyclable material and what the end-products are.  Please help us with this.

At our facility we primarily “recover” material.  This means that we sort, both with machinery and manually through the material and harvest as much as we can.  “Recycling” means to convert waste into reusable material.  Items such as metals, plastic and cardboard that we harvest are sent to a recycling facility designed to process that material.  We do however, recycle wood, concrete, brick, block, asphalt and shingles onsite.  They are made into mulch, boiler fuel, gravel and road base.  When we use something that is sustainable it means to avoid depleting our natural resources.  Anytime we use recycled materials instead of virgin materials from the earth it is a sustainable solution. 

What are some of the things you salvage?  

We salvage ferrous and non-ferrous metals, wire (we strip it inhouse), untreated framing wood (treated wood, plywood and MDF are not recyclable), rigid plastic (such as buckets), cardboard, concrete, brick, block, asphalt, PVC, vinyl siding, carpet, mattresses and stumps, brush and logs.  In the next few weeks we will start collecting film (like plastic bags and shrink wrap) and carpet padding and foam from furniture cushions.  We are just waiting on our covering to be installed to keep it all dry.   

How in the world do you separate recovery qualified material? 

Material is dumped on our floor where the recycling process begins.  It is then loaded into our sorting equipment where the mechanical and hands-on separation occurs.  The sorted materials are then baled, loose loaded or moved to our yard to be made into new products.

When passing by your place in Troy we see piles of different things like mulch and gravel and maybe topsoil.  Are all of these from recycled waste?

Yes, the gravel and mulch are recycled products made from material we have recovered.  

When someone needs mulch, for example, there are two options.  One is from a landscape business and the other is from van der Linde Recycling.  What are the differences?

Technically, all mulch is recycled.  People should buy the product that best fits their needs and wallet.  People would be surprised how many places carry our mulch.  We sell all of our mulch at wholesale prices and we are open to the public.  If you want to take advantage of the wholesale price we are a great option.

We see home builders advertising “EarthCraft” and “LEED Certification”.  This is also true in your advertising.  What do these two classifications mean?

Both EarthCraft and LEED Certification are initiatives to build in an environmentally conscious way.  There are very strict requirements to achieve one of these designations.  This includes how you dispose of the waste from those same projects.  EarthCraft is primarily residential and LEED certification is primarily commercial and based on a point system.  Contractors get points for landfill diversion.  Because of our recovery and recycling capabilities, we are able to support those jobs. 

One of my favorite TV programs is, “How It’s Made.”  Do you ever have an open house so people of all ages, especially children, learn more about recycling?

We love to give tours because we are very proud of what we do.  Our challenge with that is meeting the OSHA safety requirements to do it.  Steel toed boots are required.  So, at least once a year we close down our operation and open our facility to the public.  This year it will be in September.  If someone has steel toed boots and would like to come during the year, we are happy to accommodate that.  The more the public knows about what we are doing, the more material we can potentially keep out of a landfill.  

Anything else?

We are very proud to say at the end of this month we will be running 100%  on solar.  This was an important project for us because it goes hand-in-hand with our recycling mission: Conserving resources that future generations will need and reducing our carbon footprint.

On May 18th from 10-2 we are hosting a fundraising lunch event for Fluvanna and Lake Monticello Fire and Rescue.  Our goal is to raise $10,000 for these amazing organizations.  We will have 99.7 radio here to broadcast the event.   

Our recycling facility is open to the public.  We are here to serve our community.  Anyone can come.  If you are rural and want to recycle traditional “commingled” items, we have a free public convenience center as well.  It is open the same hours as our facility.   

If you want to learn more about the recycle business and its importance, visit – www. sales@vanderlinderecycling.com. The website is www.vanderlinderecycling.com.

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