Arlington, VA

Arlington should consider glass-only curbside collection in order to boost its recycling rate, one of the companies that helps recycle the county’s bottles and jars says.

Jim Nordmeyer, vice president of sustainability at bottle maker O-I Glass, said in an interview that while Arlington’s current drop-off containers for glass have been effective, a dedicated collection truck would further increase glass recycling levels amid a drop in glass supplies.

“[Arlington has] a premium stream of glass that comes back into the container industry,” Nordmeyer said. “We’d like to encourage a lot more…. The best way [to do this] is at the curb, glass-only collection.”

By Nordmeyer’s estimates, there is approximately 14 million pounds of glass available for recycling in Arlington annually. If 70% of residents, the national average for curbside recycling, participated in a curbside glass recycling, then nearly 10 million pounds of glass could be collected annually.

In the first year of Arlington’s drop-off glass program, the county says it collected 2 million pounds of glass.

Arlington currently has five drop-off sites, following the removal of glass last year from its curbside recycling list. A rise in the cost of single-stream recycling, where all recyclables are put in the blue bin, was largely behind the move.

Kathryn O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, told ARLnow the county sees a dedicated curbside collection for glass as financially impractical.

“We have considered glass-only curbside collection and have determined that this option is cost prohibitive,” O’Brien said. “Our internal estimates are that adding curbside glass collection would increase the [Household Solid Waste Rate] by 15%-20%.”

The rate, which is paid by Arlington homeowners who receive curbside collection, is currently $26.58 a month. A 15-20% increase would add around an extra $5 per month, or $60 per year, to the bill.

Nordmeyer said the county can “offset the cost of that second [glass collection] truck with the savings they are getting from reduced fees at the material recovery facility and reduced fees in material going to the landfill.”

Boosting glass recycling levels is especially important after a sharp national decline at the start of the pandemic, Nordmeyer said.

With bars and restaurants shut down and material recovery centers closed to protect employees, glassmakers like O-I lost the recyclable material they rely on to make products. According to Nordmeyer, the average recycled content in each O-I container is around 35%.

O-I receives Arlington glass at its manufacturing plants in Danville and Toano, Virginia. The glass is first transported to Fairfax County from the drop-off bins, then it is taken by glass recycling company Strategic Materials. Once processed, the glass is sold to manufacturers like O-I.

Image via Arlington County

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You probably know that glass is no longer recycled in Arlington, but do you know that recycling placed in garbage bags is automatically thrown away at the processing plant?

We sent ten questions people might have about what can and cannot get recycled to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services earlier this month. The answers from the experts at the county’s Solid Waste Bureau are below.

For more information on Arlington’s curbside waste collection service, see county’s trash and recycling page. If you have any other questions, let us know in the comments.

1. If you place your junk mail directly into the recycling, will that be recycled?

Your junk mail (e.g., catalogues, letters, envelopes) is what is known as “mixed paper” and will be recycled if placed in your recycling cart. One way to reduce junk mail intake: https://recycling.arlingtonva.us/catalog-choice/.

2. Do you need to remove the plastic tape from cardboard boxes in order for it to be recycled?

You do not need to remove the plastic tape from cardboard boxes prior to placing them in your bin. However, packing slips and their plastic envelopes should be removed. Also, please flatten all cardboard boxes and try to fit them all into the blue curbside recycling cart. If you have many such boxes, you can take them to the Quincy or Trade Centers recycling drop-off sites and place them inside the very large bins.

3. If there’s some food left on a container after rinsing it, can it still be recycled?

All materials should be clean, dry and empty before being placed in the recycling bin. Reducing food contamination in the recycling stream helps ensure that materials can be recycled into new products. Although you don’t need to scrub or run food containers through the dishwasher before placing them in the recycling cart, all food debris should be removed. A simple wash or wipe with a paper towel is usually sufficient.

4. Can soiled cardboard, like pizza boxes, be recycled?

Very soiled cardboard including pizza boxes cannot be recycled and should be placed in the trash. Relatively clean pizza boxes can be recycled.

5. Can you put recyclables right in the cart? Or should they all be bagged?

Recyclables should ALWAYS be placed loose and directly into the cart. They should NEVER be bagged. Recyclables in bags will be disposed of as trash at the recycling sorting facility. Even empty, plastic bags should never go in the recycling cart.

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Arlington’s yard waste collection service has been suspended since May, and there’s still no word as to when it might resume.

There is a bit of a silver lining, though: those who receive curbside collection — mostly single-family homeowners — will be getting an account credit for the lack of service, once it resumes. The county made that announcement today.

The credit will only be enough to buy a couple of lattes from one’s favorite cafe, however: just under $3 per month.

Yard waste collection service was suspended due to increased trash collection volume and staffing issues experienced by the county’s contractor. During the suspension, the county has been offering free yard waste drop-off at two locations, as well as curbside brush and tree limb service.

The suspension has led to a bit of entrepreneurship: some local high school students have facilitating the drop-off of yard waste for a fee of $5 per bag or $20 per green bin, while advertising their services on local listservs and social networks.

More from Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services:

The County will be issuing a yard waste credit to the Household Solid Waste Rate once curbside collection is restored. Yard waste collection has been temporarily suspended since mid-May due to contractor staffing issues related to COVID-19. A date for service restoration is still unknown.

Yard waste collection and disposal accounts for $2.95 of the $26.58 (FY21) monthly Household Solid Waste Rate.

We know that suspension of yard waste collection,  especially during the spring and summer months, has been frustrating to many residents and appreciate your understanding during this challenging time. The County offers two yard waste drop-off centers for grass/leaves/vines, available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. No appointment is necessary. Curbside collection of larger yard waste material  like brush and limbs remains available by appointment only.

Our Solid Waste crews have been working every day since the pandemic began to maintain essential trash and recycling service while dealing with the challenges we all are facing. We hope to return to normal service as soon as possible.

An update will be provided once we have restored yard waste service and the County is able to calculate the full credit amount and expenses.

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Arlington has been removing some parking spaces to facilitate the expansion of outdoor dining in two local neighborhoods.

The County Board approved a process for restaurants to apply for expanded, temporary outdoor dining areas in late May. Since then, county crews have blocked off street parking spots in six places to allow pedestrians to better get around the sidewalk cafes.

According to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, the repurposed parking spaces are located in the Shirlington and Clarendon areas, including:

  • Washington Boulevard between Wilson Blvd and 13th St N, about 2 parking spaces
  • Wilson Blvd between N Cleveland St and N Danville St, about 4 parking spaces
  • Wilson Blvd between N Hudson St and N Irving St, about 6 parking spaces
  • S Campbell St between S Arlington Mill Dr and S Quincy St, all on-street parking spaces
  • West side of S Randolph St immediately south of S Campbell St, a few spaces (exact number not available at this time)
  • West side of S Quincy St immediately south of S Campbell St (exact number not available at this time)

Crews were seen blocking off the Shirlington parkings areas Monday morning.

DES spokesman Peter Golkin said additional parking spaces may be repurposed as restaurants apply for Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSAs), though no additional, specific locations are currently planned.

“We are creating pedestrian space around outdoor seating as restaurants apply for outdoor seating,” Golkin said.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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Arlington County is apologizing for an “unfortunate situation” — ordering three Black employees to remove a girl’s Black Lives Matter chalk art from in front of her home on Juneteenth.

A neighbor complained about the chalk creations, which included quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, leading to the county response. Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services crews will remove any such markings, regardless of the message, upon receiving a complaint, the county said.

The county issued the following statement Friday night:

We apologize for this unfortunate situation, particularly on such an important day, Juneteenth. Our crews were following policy to remove markings, regardless of the message, on County right-of-way in response to a received complaint.  None of the markings were removed from private property.

We understand the deep feelings that are present in the community. Our mission is to deliver public services based on established policies in a consistent manner. We’re reviewing our policy. Our crews take great pride in keeping Arlington clean and safe.

The action drew widespread condemnation from residents and others after a neighbor wrote about it on social media and ARLnow subsequently published an article.

On Friday night, the neighborhood’s civic association condemned the removal of the chalk art and demanded answers from the county.

“These chalk drawings were expressions of solidarity with current racial justice protests done by African-American children, and whose father is a US Navy officer,” wrote the Boulevard Manor Civic Association. “The DES employees were ‘ordered’ to power wash the children’s chalk drawings as another resident in BMCA ‘complained.’ BMCA strongly condemns, is saddened, and is disappointed in the above action taken by DES.”

The Arlington branch of the NAACP said it “sent the County Board a communication” as well.

Earlier Friday, Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey called the removal “a mistake” and “wrong.”

“It was a mistake to prioritize responding to this call during a pandemic where our workers should not be deployed unnecessarily,” Dorsey told ARLnow. “Furthermore, removal of the chalk art from a driveway apron, widely known to be the responsibility of the resident, was wrong.”

“We apologize to the residents for erasing their expressions from their property and to our workers who were directed to do it,” Dorsey continued. “That this occurred as our County gathered to reflect on the unfulfilled promise of Black liberation on Juneteenth adds further insult, and compels us to confront the role of our government in perpetuating systemic inequities. We can, must, and will do better.”

Despite rain yesterday, residents came out to support the family whose drawings were removed, adding more chalk art and quotes to the street, sidewalk and driveway. More expressions of solidarity are expected today.

“We plan to go out again to line the streets and sidewalks with messages of solidarity and support for the Hamptons,” a tipster tells ARLnow.

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(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) Arlington County will be holding a virtual public meeting tonight to discuss a trio of road projects set for later this year.

The county plans to repave and re-stripe portions of Wilson Blvd in the Dominion Hills and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods, Potomac Avenue in Potomac Yard, and Clarendon Blvd in the Courthouse and Rosslyn neighborhoods. The work is expected to take place this summer and fall, following the current public engagement process.

Arlington has been using its regularly-planned street maintenance to re-stripe roads in an effort make them safer, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. It often involves the addition or enhancement of bike lanes, sharrows and crosswalks.

At an online meeting tonight from 6:30-7:30 p.m., held via Microsoft Teams, county staff will present the concept plans for its three 2020 projects while seeking public feedback.

More from the event page:

The Master Transportation Plan identifies routine street maintenance as an opportunity to provide cost-effective and easy to implement measures to improve safety and access for all people using the street. Community engagement is a core value in Arlington, and we wanted to provide opportunities for community members to share their feedback on the concept plans for the 2020 Street Maintenance season.

Please join county staff for an online meeting on Thursday, June 4 from 6:30-7:30 pm to learn about the project, ask questions and share feedback on the design concepts for the three 2020 Resurfacing Projects for Complete Streets.

Staff will present concepts for:

  • Wilson Boulevard – N Larrimore Street to McKinley Road (Dominion Hills/Boulevard Manor)
  • Potomac Avenue – S Crystal Drive to Alexandria City Line (Potomac Yard)
  • Clarendon Boulevard – N Nash to N Oak Street (Clarendon-Courthouse/Radnor/Fort Myer Heights)

The country recently repaved and re-striped portions of Lorcom Lane and Military Road. The work was done in conjunction with construction on the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School.

An online open house in April discussed all four projects.

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(Updated at 8:45 p.m.) After abruptly announcing a suspension of residential yard waste collection Friday afternoon, effective Monday, the county is backtracking a bit and resuming it for a week.

“Arlington’s residential trash contractor has identified enough staff to offer curbside yard waste collection during regular routes tomorrow May 5, through next Monday, May 11,” the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services said in a tweet Monday afternoon. “The service will be temporarily suspended again beginning Tuesday, May 12.”

DES said last week that it was halting the weekly collection of grass clippings, twigs and other organic materials from local yards due to a sharp rise in residential trash volume during the pandemic. The county’s waste contractor is working to keep up with the increase in collection volume while dealing with staffing issues, DES spokesman Peter Golkin said today.

“American Disposal Services checked crew levels and wanted to get one more run of routes for yard waste before staffing numbers made that impossible,” Golkins told ARLnow. “The guys on the trucks are doing heroic work to protect Arlington’s health and well-being and as their numbers go down because of the coronavirus, ADS will concentrate on trash and recycling. The County is glad residents can get the green carts emptied before the suspension.”

Also starting Tuesday, the county is opening two yard waste drop-off locations for Arlington residents:

Beginning Tuesday, May 5, the County will offer two drop-off yard waste locations: the Earth Products Yard at the Trades Center, 4300 29th St. S. in Shirlington; and the North 26th Street and Yorktown Boulevard mulch pickup site, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Residents will be required to show identification. Landscapers must use official County paper yard waste bags available at 2100 N. Clarendon Blvd. and at 4300 29th. St. S.

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) With little notice, Arlington County is suspending its weekly collection of grass clippings, twigs and other yard waste.

The suspension is effective as of Monday, meaning that those whose green carts are already full will have to compost or figure out some other way to dispose of the contents.

The county says it made the decision to temporarily halt yard waste collection because, as much of the county works and shelters at home during the coronavirus crisis, the volume of residential trash has increased 40% and it needs the extra manpower to make sure it all gets hauled away safely.

Arlington approved adding yard waste to its residential trash and recycling collection service in 2015. The municipal curbside collections mostly serve single-family homes in the county, while apartment, condo and office buildings are served by private waste collection companies.

More from the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services:

Because of the impact of coronavirus on trash crew staffing, residential yard waste pickup from green curbside carts and of biodegradable paper waste bags is suspended indefinitely. Plastic bags with yard waste will not be collected. Residents are strongly encouraged to grasscycle lawn clippings and compost organics whenever possible. Brush collection services by request will continue.

As residents heed the call to stay home, an increase of up to 40 percent in residential trash tonnage since mid-March has placed strain on regional waste management systems. Refuse and recycling collection are vital to the region’s health and safety, and Arlington is committed to providing this essential service. Every morning, collection crews report to work while facing the same life challenges as the rest of the community.

To help ensure crew health and safety, as well as daily completion of routes, residents are asked to follow these guidelines:

  • Dispose of used wipes, tissues and paper towels in trash bags that are tied shut.
  • Refrain from generating large amounts of waste – Keep your spring cleaning pile in the basement, attic or garage until normal operations resume. (Bulk item pickup is suspended.)
  • Flatten cardboard boxes to create more room in recycling carts.
  • Consider backyard composting or grasscycling lawn clippings.

Thank you for your cooperation during this challenging time.

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A former intern in Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services has helped the county obtain 1,400 masks for workers.

The intern, Lucie, interned for DES in 2016 and has since been attending school in Hawaii, though she is currently back in her native China amid the coronavirus outbreak. Through a friend who runs a trading company in Hong Kong, she heard about a shipment of 1,400 face masks sitting in Los Angeles and immediately thought of her former colleagues.

Lucie reached out to DES, according to department spokesman Peter Golkin, to see if the masks might be of use. When she was told they were, she and some other friends — including a George Mason University grad student — raised money to cover the cost of the shipment to Arlington, Golkin said.

Now, frontline workers in the Water, Sewer, Streets Bureau, one of the bureaus in which Lucie interned, have access to construction-grade face masks that can help them stay healthy while on the job patching potholes, fixing water main breaks and maintaining other essential infrastructure. And the shipment came at a time when personal protective equipment of all types is in short supply.

“Thanks Lucie and company!” DES said via social media on Monday.

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With much of the Arlington population confined to their homes, it’s little surprise that residents are generating more trash.

But the scale of the increase — more than 30% by weight — is straining the trash collectors, who are trying to stay on the job and stay healthy during the outbreak.

Over the weekend, Arlington County renewed its call for residents to try to limit their trash generation, if at all possible. That includes pausing any spring cleaning.

“Obviously a lot more people are home all day,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin told ARLnow. “They’re cleaning out more than usual, listening to their inner Marie Kondo as they stare at the walls and what’s piled up in front of them. They should indulge themselves with the couch and ARLnow and a few books and put off the big clean-ups for a few months.”

“The rise in trash left out for weekly collection has slowed the crews on the trucks of our contractor,” Golkin said, explaining why some residents may be seeing later than usual pickups. “[Crews] deserve great respect as they continue to do a vital job while facing increased health concerns and the other issues we’re all dealing with.”

The county has also suspended curbside bulk trash pickup and cancelled its popular spring E-CARE recycling and disposal event.

“Unfortunately, our spring 2020 E-CARE on April 18 has been canceled,” the county said. “Updates will be posted regarding an E-CARE event in the fall or later.”

Arlington’s residential trash collection serves all single-family homes, duplexes and some townhomes. Apartment and condo residents are served by private, commercial trash haulers.

The press release about the county’s call for less trash is below.

Curbside trash and recycling collection is an important service provided to ensure the health and safety of our community. Our crews play a critical role in providing these services, while balancing the same life and home challenges we all are facing during this time.

Over the last week, residential trash tonnage has increased more than 30%. The residential collection system is becoming stressed and we all need to do our part and limit the amount of trash, recycling and yard waste being placed out for collection.

To help ensure their health and safety and maintain our collection schedule, Arlington County is issuing additional guidance:

  • Please minimize setting extra bags outside the cart.
  • Keep your spring cleaning pile in your basement or garage for now.
  • Flatten your cardboard boxes to create more room in your recycling bin
  • If you have a large quantity of cardboard boxes, drop them off at one of our recycling drop-off centers.
  • Drop off glass at one of our recycling drop-off centers instead of throwing it in the trash.
  • Make an appointment and drop-off your household hazardous materials, now available Monday through Thursday (by appointment only. Call 703-228-5000 to schedule.)
  • Grasscycle your lawn clippings.

Photo courtesy Arlington County

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Good news: you’re not going to get coronavirus from the tap water. But you could cause a big clog if you don’t watch what you flush.

That’s the message from the people who keep the water running in Arlington.

The county’s Dept. of Environmental Services is upping its public outreach to join other municipal water agencies in urging people not to flush wipes or anything else that is not “pee, poo or toilet paper.”

More from DES:

Plumbing and sewer lines – kept healthy – provide vital service to any community. Now more than ever, it’s essential to have such infrastructure flowing in Arlington.

When it comes to toilets, only three things that should ever be flushed. Two are those familiar human waste products. The other is genuine toilet paper.

Flushing down anything else threatens your home’s plumbing and, farther into the line, Arlington’s sanitary sewer system.

Disposable cleaning wipes, dental floss, cigarette butts, cat litter and more should always be thrown away. Those supposedly “flushable” hygiene wipes should also never be flushed. They fail to break down and can cause massive clogs.

Even paper towels and facial tissue can create jams because of their particular composition. Throw them away. Don’t flush them.

County spokesman Peter Golkin says no major clogs have been reported in Arlington so far, but the danger remains as people continue to use wipes amid a toilet paper shortage. And that’s not to mention disinfectant wipes that are unadvisedly disposed of in the toilet.

DES is also reminding residents to avoid sending fats, oils and grease down the sink, which coats and clogs pipes.

“Folks just need to take some simple steps to protect their own plumbing and the county’s,” said Golkin. “Put a trash can in the bathroom if you don’t have one and keep an empty metal can beside the stove for fats, oils and grease. Let it cool. Throw it in the trash.”

Separately, officials are assuring residents that Arlington’s tap water is safe, even during the outbreak.

There is no risk of virus transmission through the region’s public water systems. Disinfectants used in the region’s water treatment, like chlorine, neutralize the virus that causes COVID-19. Conventional water treatment methods also use filtration.

The region’s drinking water continues to meet all safety standards established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Virginia Department of Health.

Also, a reminder: the annual spring water disinfectant switch will be happening next week as scheduled. From DES:

The District of Columbia, Arlington County and northeastern Fairfax County will clean out their tap water network starting Monday — a safe, annual process.

Service continues uninterrupted during the process, which runs from March 30 through May 4. During that time, drinking water in the may taste slightly different. But the purification process remains unchanged and the water is essentially unchanged.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Washington Aqueduct  performs the temporary disinfectant switch from chloramine to chlorine to help clean the pipes and maintain system flow. Washington Aqueduct continues to add a corrosion inhibitor during the process to reduce the potential release of lead in system pipes throughout the region.

During the cleaning, local water authorities will continually monitor the drinking water for safe chlorine levels as well as conduct system-wide flushing to enhance water quality. Concurrently, staff will start systematically flushing fire hydrants. This process is repeated nearly every spring, in the region and across the nation. Crews operating hydrants are a normal part of this routine.

This temporary cleaning often brings with it a new smell to tap water. If customers opt, they can run the cold water tap for about two minutes, use a water filter or let water sit in a container in the refrigerator to remove chlorine taste and odor.

Customers who take special precautions to remove chloramine from tap water should continue such methods during the temporary switch to chlorine. As always, those with special concerns should consult their health care provider.

The Washington Aqueduct is the wholesale water supplier for the District of Columbia, Arlington and northeastern Fairfax County.

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