Arlington, VA

Arlington County is looking at ways to make composting easier for residents.

County staff are considering a collection service that would allow residents to mix their food scraps with their yard trimmings for collection. They are asking residents to share their thoughts in a survey available through Friday, Dec. 4.

Quarterly trash audits reveal that food scraps make up more than 20% of the residential waste stream. Staff said collecting food scraps would support the County’s goal of diverting up to 90% of waste from incineration by 2038.

According to the County’s website, the weekly service would cost less than $12 annually, far less than the City of Falls Church, which charges $66, and the rates of private haulers, which charge up to $360.

“Many communities have successfully implemented food scraps collection programs in the manner proposed by the County,” the website said. “By implementing a food scrap collection program, residents would increase the County’s recycling rate, reduce the amount of County trash incinerated, create soil amendments and depending on individual actions, save money, reduce food waste, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

During the week, residents would collect their fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy in a countertop pail. Once the pail fills up, residents would place the scraps — bagged in paper or compostable bags — in their green organics cart and take it to the curb on trash pickup day.

To limit odors, staff recommend lining the pail with a bag, emptying it regularly and rinsing it occasionally. Freezing the scraps also reduces odors. Like the yard trimmings, food scraps will be brought to a ” Virginia-permitted composting facility certified by the U.S. Composting Council.”

The County has collected grass clippings, cut flowers, brush, hedge trimmings and leaves year-round since 2016.

(The service is available to those who receive residential waste collection from the county — mostly those in single-family homes. Apartment and condo residents are typically served by private waste collection haulers.)

“The year-round program has been very successful — so much so that the County is now considering the addition of leftover food scraps including fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy,” the county said.

Currently, all Arlingtonians can bring scraps to the Earth Recycling Yard at the Arlington County Trades Center from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Some farmers markets also recycle food scraps.

The County sees a food scrap collection service as a chance to educate people about reducing food waste and improving the environment.

In addition to saving households money, the County website on food scrap collection said there are other benefits to preventing food waste, including “learning to make better use of leftovers, minimizing spoilage by storing refrigerated and perishable items properly, and most importantly, that each of us has a direct role in reducing food waste both inside and outside the home.”

It listed several environmental benefits: reducing methane emissions from landfills, conserving energy, and reducing pollution.

Compost pail photo by The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

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