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County Rolling Out Stringent New Recycling Requirements for Businesses

by ARLnow.com September 7, 2016 at 1:15 pm 0

Recycling Bins(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) About 4,600 businesses in Arlington County are newly subject to stringent recycling requirements this year.

Last November, the County Board approved changes to the county’s garbage and refuse ordinances, along with a resolution supporting a “zero waste” goal of increasing its recycling rate.

Putting the changes and goals into action, on Jan. 1 the county began requiring that businesses, in addition to property owners, create and implement recycling plans. Like commercial and multifamily properties — those who manage office buildings and apartments — local businesses are also now subject to an annual inspection by an “Arlington County Recycling Outreach Specialist” and a $66 fee to pay for that inspection.

Including the property owners that were previously subject to the requirements, some 6,000 businesses total in Arlington are now required to:

  • Register and submit a trash and recycling plan.
  • Establish a recycling program to collect and dispose of recyclable items separately from trash.
  • Place a recycling container next to every trash container.
  • Clearly label recycling containers.
  • Provide educational materials to employees (or tenants), telling them about the recycling program.

The requirements are far from onerous for large companies, but for some smaller companies, where every minute and every dollar counts, it’s producing some confusion and consternation.

The owner of a five-employee non-profit organization told ARLnow.com that she had to go back and forth with the county before getting a letter that finally explained the requirements and the fact that her organization was, in fact, subject to the new rules.

“Over the last month, I’ve spent a ton of my time dealing with the new recycling rules — mostly because Arlington County has been terrible at planning for and implementing their rules changes,” she said. “It’s been a very frustrating thing during [a time that is] normally busy anyway, and I’m sure [it is] for others too.”

The $66 fee, we’re told, can only be paid by check or by paying via credit card in person at county government headquarters — not online. An online payment system is in the works, the business owner was told.

Phil Bresee, manager of Arlington’s Environmental Management Office, said the inspections are new but the recycling requirement is not.

“All businesses have been required to recycle since 1994 — just not all have been subject to the fee and inspections,” he explained. “The changes to the Code apply the requirements to all businesses in the County.”

“Until this year, the code focused on and placed the responsibility for ensuring compliance on property managers and owners,” Bresee continued. “While most properties had recycling systems in place, we found that a large percentage of individual businesses or commercial tenants were not participating in those systems. Addressing that disconnect was the key driver for the Code changes.”

Bresee said the county intends to inspect all 6,000 businesses this year, though county code “does allow us to consider exemptions on a case-by-case basis.”

Another possible exception: businesses based in coworking spaces like MakeOffices and WeWork may be covered under the umbrella of the coworking company’s plan.

“In these unique situations, we mainly focus on ensuring that an overall recycling system is in place,” Bresee said. “Coworking spaces and virtual offices are usually covered under the recycling plans filed by the property manager or owner.”

The letter sent to businesses notes that two-thirds of all solid waste in Arlington is generated by commercial and multi-family properties. Business participation in recycling programs, the letter says, it key to meeting the county’s “zero waste” goals.

“Arlington County strives to be a world-class urban community and maintaining a clean and environmentally sustainable city is a top priority,” the letter said.

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