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Second leaf collection pass to start tomorrow after slight weather delay

Leaf collection in Westover (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After a slight weather delay, the second leaf collection pass will start tomorrow (Tuesday).

Arlington County initially posted the second vacuuming could start on Saturday, Dec. 3. Despite the delay, the county aims to finish sucking up dead leaves before Christmas.

“Collection is currently a day or two behind because of recent winds and rain prompting heavy leaf fall but that’s not uncommon and the schedule has some built-in flexibility,” Department of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin. “The end target of Dec. 21 remains on schedule.”

Routes are run Monday through Saturday, according to the county website. Residents can see when their neighborhood is scheduled for services online and can reference an interactive map to track the department’s progress.

Roughly 2,500 tons of leaves were collected during the first pass, which wrapped up Saturday, the DES spokesman says.

“That’s more leaves than the total 2,736 tons for all of last year but less than the 5,706 total tons picked up for all 2020 and the 6,696 total tons in 2019,” he said. “Hard numbers from weighing the leaves won’t be in until the vacuum second pass schedule is completed the second-to-last week of December.”

This year, Arlington County started leaf collection on Nov. 14, a week after last year’s scheduled start, potentially meaning an extra week for curbside leaf piles to get large and soggy.

In response to the change, more than a third of readers said that was too late, according to an unscientific ARLnow poll. On the other hand, a majority said the later start wasn’t a problem: 38% said the current schedule is fine and about a quarter said it should start later.

It appears the later start,  determined by Solid Waste Bureau chief Erik Grabowsky and his team of “tree whisperers,” was not a problem for crews.

“As we say on the website, they use ‘historic data, tree types and density, weather forecasts, state forestry forecasts and resident feedback’ to set the schedule and it works out well,” Golkin said.

DES provided these leaf tips for residents preparing for collection:

  • Leaves need to be waiting at the curb by the date on the orange signs posted throughout each neighborhood and the first date, NOT the end date, for each neighborhood on the schedule
  • Leaves can also go in the green curbside cart (along with food scraps) and paper bags for year-round weekly collection; never use plastic bags for yard waste because those can’t be composted and won’t be collected
  • Free paper yard waste bags are available while supplies last (maximum of 15 per resident) at several County facilities

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