Recycling Is Magic

recycling-is-magic-logo-1An Environmental and Social Development Initiative


Recycling consistently and correctly is the foundational action of a true environmental steward.  If practiced religiously, recycling and re-use can eliminate most waste products from ever ending up in a landfill, let alone the gutter.  Recycling isn’t complicated and doesn’t take much time, yet recycling is like a foreign language to most people in the Richmond area.  In many communities across the country recycling is the social norm as it is considered every person’s civic duty and environmental responsibility.  Some communities have taken responsibility up a notch by legally requiring citizens to recycle or be fined.  When people from these communities move to Richmond they are usually horrified at how lax we are about recycling.  We can do much better!

Recently the City of Richmond bought all of its homeowners a new recycling present – a 96 gallon recycling supercan.  Unfortunately the City did not include training with the present so many of these cans either sit around unused or are filled with anything and everything that appears to be recyclable, often enclosed in a plastic bag, which is not recyclable through the City program..  The City also did not include businesses and organizations in their recycling program, making it a very incomplete system.

Richmond needs to foment a recycling revolution!  Richmonders need to start considering recycling as important and government needs to stop coaxing and start requiring citizens to recycle regularly and correctly.  And while we are nudging the current crop of adults to do their civic duty, we also need to teach our youth about the magic of recycling and its integral relationship to the future of our environment.  Humanity needs recycling and re-use to become instinctual and that only happens when people are taught early and often.

When you think about it – recycling is a magical process.  Turning a discarded and crumpled aluminum can into a usable can again and again is magical, especially to Mother Earth.  When used to influence people to see recycling as important and fun, the art of magic can reach folks in a unique and compelling manner, providing a powerful motivational tool for kids and adults.


The idea for the Recycling is Magic Initiative was born in 2012 when Richmond Public Schools first entered into a recycling contract with TFC Recycling, placing a recycling dumpster at each school.  Through collaboration between Replenish Richmond and Communities in Schools at George Mason Elementary, the school’s new recycling resource was used to participate in a Sierra Club recycling contest – the GME RVA Green team won 1st Prize and $1,000 for the school.  The award winning project involved significantly increased in-school recycling and also recycling at home.  Fifty GME families participated over a 6 week period and were rewarded with a cookout and a magic show at the school.  Below is a link describing the recycling contest, including a link to a fun 5 minute video done as an element of the contest entry.

The recycling momentum at George Mason Elementary continues to this day, but getting RPS administration and other RPS schools engaged in recycling has not been so successful.  The Recycling is Magic movement was re-energized in the fall of 2015 when a business concept called Recycling is Magic (RIM) was conceived and implemented by Replenish Richmond.  RIM offers a comprehensive recycling service to businesses and organizations in Richmond, entities not provided a recycling option by the City.  Restaurants were chosen as the initial target market because they have multiple types of recyclable waste and have the ability to be spheres of influence to their patrons about the importance of recycling regularly and properly.  RIM began in September 2015 and now serves 14 restaurants with twice weekly (and sometimes more frequent) recycling services.


The purpose of the Recycling is Magic Initiative is to significantly increase the amount and the quality of the recycling performed by individuals, families, businesses, organizations, schools and governments across our regional community of Richmond.  Magic will be an important component of the marketing and awareness campaign, and magic shows will be crafted to provide recycling instruction and motivation for youth and adults.


The overall message of the Recycling is Magic Initiative has three components

  • It is the environmental responsibility of every citizen and organization to recycle everything that can be recycled and to always follow the basic rules of recycling.
  • Recycling must be taught and ingrained in our youth so this aspect of environmental stewardship becomes instinctual for them when they reach adulthood.
  • The ability to transform waste materials into reusable items is truly magical and must be practiced and celebrated – and rewarded with magic of course!


A very important component of the Recycling is Magic Initiative is using the art of magic to help inspire folks to be better recyclers and as a reward for those who support recycling efforts.  Replenish Richmond is working closely with the Richmond-area Ring 180 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians to develop recycling magic tricks and to present magic wrapped around recycling throughout the Richmond community.  It is hoped and expected that Recycling is Magic will also expand the appreciation for magic as an art form and inspire many new magicians in the RVA.

Recycling is Magic Process – as of 10/1/2016

The Recycling is Magic Initiative (RIM) is currently being developed as a social enterprise business and a social movement by Replenish Richmond and its RVA Green Team.  RIM intends to spread across the Richmond region once it is tested and proven in the City, capitalizing on the investment made by the City and RPS in offering recycling services and taking maximum advantage of population density to reach those not currently offered a recycling service option.  RIM intends to connect to the following City of Richmond community subsets:

  • Richmond Public Schools – 100% recycling in the classroom, cafeteria and at events
  • Businesses, Non-profit & Faith orgs – offering a comprehensive recycling service
  • Individuals & families – supporting the City service with awareness and education

Richmond Public Schools

RIM will begin its efforts in RPS schools by concentrating in the East End, where the project was first conceived, and at George Wythe High School, where there is growing interest in recycling.  RIM will also be looking to add any RPS schools that have an interest in increasing their school’s recycling.  To start, RIM will look to intersect with the following RPS schools by the end of 2016:

  • High Schools > Armstrong, George Wythe
  • Middle Schools > Martin Luther King MS
  • Elementary > Bellevue, Chimborazo, Fairfield Court, George Mason, Woodville
  • Specialty > Franklin Military Academy

RIM intends to develop recycling for the classrooms and administrative offices, for the cafeteria, and for all special events held at the school.  It is hoped that composting will be become a part of the cafeteria aspect of the program that can be used to support school gardens.

Businesses, Non-profit & Faith organizations

RIM is looking to partner with a neighborhood non-profit organization to turn its current recycling business into a social enterprise business that can be offered to restaurants, businesses, non-profit and faith organizations which are not eligible for the City’s curbside recycling service.  The social enterprise business is envisioned to help “recycle” young adults who need some direction, providing workforce training and developing social skills.

Individuals & Families

Since most individuals and families across the City of Richmond have access to regular recycling pick-up using the aforementioned recycling supercans, RIM is concentrating on creating awareness of the City program and educating citizens about the rules of recycling.  RIM will use its business clients to act as spheres of influence to reach their employees, clients, customers and supporters.  For those individuals and families living in RRHA communities and apartment complexes that are not serviced by the City curbside program, the RIM business will look to expand its comprehensive recycling service to those communities.