Smitherman: Best Practices for the Landfill – Danville Register & Bee

Originally Published in the Danville Register & Bee on June 22

Last week, Assistant County Administrator Richard Hicks and I visited the Bedford County landfill and several of its convenience centers and talked to its solid waste operations team. We learned a lot about what it took to get to the point they’re at, which is a well-run, highly efficient and convenient garbage collection and disposal system. We also got a lot of ideas about what Pittsylvania County has to do to get to the level of professional service Bedford residents enjoy. It’s going to take a lot of work, but we’re optimistic about the future of our solid waste operations and the ability of our employees to provide a highly valued service.

County staff wants to learn where we can improve operations of our landfill from both our peers and the experts. For example, we have learned that the active trash site, or working face, should be reduced in size to optimize the number of times trash is crushed and compacted by our heavy equipment. If we can improve our compaction rate by 25 percent, it would bring us to the same rate as Bedford. It would also add 10 years to the landfill’s life expectancy and save the county about $22 million. Yes, $22 million.

Another thing that we can easily improve is our offering of recycling services. Currently, we offer cardboard and newspaper recycling. We are now in conversation with the City of Danville to bring some of their recycling bins to many of our convenience centers. This will reduce the amount of trash that we have to bury, help the environment and help our citizens have the highest quality service we can offer.

These are very small operational differences that we can do to make big changes to our services: more volume, less space, more recycling, more savings.

Our four staff committees are focused on the administration, public relations, enforcement and operational issues that must be addressed to turn our system into the valuable service our residents expect and deserve.

We’ve kept the Board of Supervisors up to date on these efforts, so that they know what’s going on. At its Tuesday work session, the board received a comprehensive overview of the things we’re working on to make these changes go as smoothly as possible. This gave them the opportunity to ask questions and get answers about our solid waste operations changes.

We also want all of you to have the opportunity to learn more about your landfill and how this $4 million per year enterprise is managed. This week we held a Media Day to allow the press to come learn more about what we do. You can see more from them here in the Register & Bee.

On July 12, we will provide a similar opportunity to you, our residents, to get a first-hand look at what we do. The Open House will be by appointment; please send us an email to or call (540) 358-5087, and we’ll get you signed up. We want you to be able to see exactly what happens when you leave your garbage at the dumpster or convenience center, and to get your questions answered.

We also will continue to build our new website,, filling it with important and helpful information regarding planned system changes and frequently asked questions. For example, the hours for our convenience centers have not yet changed. We will be locking the gates at night and will change our operating hours in order to stem contractor abuse that is happening in the dark of the night.

So here’s my question for you, which I will ask at the end of each column I write: Is there something you’d like to see us change? Do you have suggestions for what we should add to our convenience centers to make your experience better? We want to know!

Send me an email at, and we will take your thoughts into consideration as we work through these improvements.