Arlington, VA

Have some pumpkins that you want to become compost? Paper that you want shredded? Rocks that you want out of your yard?

You’ll be able to do all three of those things at a single county-run event next month.

Arlington County is planning a free “Pumpkin Drop-Off, Free Paper Shredding & Inert Material Drop-Off” event on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. It’s being held at the county’s Earth Products Yard near Shirlington (4300 29th Street S.).

“Unload that moldering pumpkin and have it become compost – just be sure to remove decorations, paint, etc.” says the county website.

The paper shredding is available for county residents only, with a limit of two boxes (up to 18″ by 11″ by 10″)  or paper bags per person. You can bring your paper with staples and paper clips, but magazines, catalogs, and phone book-sized material will not be accepted.

Inert material — asphalt, ceramic tiles, concrete, dirt, masonry blocks, rocks, and sand — will also be collected. Up to 3 cubic yards, or a small pickup truck load, will be accepted per person.

Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok

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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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One of Arlington’s glass recycling bins is being moved to improve access to those in the far northern reaches of the county.

The drop-off bin in the Cherrydale library parking lot, which has been there since last fall, is being moved to the Madison Community Center  (3829 N. Stafford Street) later this week.

“The new glass recycling drop-off bin will be available starting at 9 a.m. on Friday,” the county said. “The location of this site, along with the County’s four other glass drop-off sites, allows for glass drop-off centers to be available within 2.25 miles of all County residents. Convenience is an important component in making recycling drop-off centers successful.”

The county’s other purple glass drop-off bins are located at:

  • Quincy Park (N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd)
  • Shirlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street)
  • Aurora Hills Community Center (735 18th Street S.)
  • Lee Community Center (5722 Lee Highway)

Glass was removed from Arlington’s curbside recycling collections last year, but residents have flocked to the bins in order to keep their bottles and jars out of landfills.

“In just a year, our community has recycled over 2 million pounds of glass and we hope to continue the success of the program together,” the county said.

Much of the glass collected by the bins is sent to Fairfax County to be crushed and used as construction material, but some has been sent to a processing plant and turned into new glass products.

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While Arlington is celebrating a new high in drop-off glass recycling, after discontinuing the recycling of glass collected curbside, a pair of local brothers have set up their own business to fill a gap in the market.

In a local Facebook group, Joe Core said he and his brother — both college students — would pick up glass from people’s homes to take it to one of Arlington’s drop-off glass recycling bins for $7. The service is contact-free, reducing the risk of spreading disease through in-person contact.

“The idea came about as my brother and I began to recycle our own family’s glass at Quincy Park and realized it was easy for us to drive just down the street and do it,” Core said, “but for many people it may be something they wouldn’t want to go out of their way to do but rather pay someone else to do.”

Core and his brother are hoping to make some extra money during the pandemic while filling a community need.

“The transition from an idea to business occurred when my brother and I realized how boring quarantine could be and that we should use our time to make money rather than just sitting around,” Core said. “From then we put out advertisements and reached out to family friends to get our business going.”

The services can be booked online, by calling 703-517-9031 or through email at [email protected]

So far, Core said business has been decentm with a decent base of regular customers. There hasn’t been any feedback from the county so far about the business, he said.

“We haven’t gotten a response from the county yet but we have been active users of the glass recycling centers and are thankful for the centers which give us a place to recycle,” Core said.

The brothers typically do two or three pickups a day, according to Core, and it’s usually a plastic storage bin worth of glass, but sometimes it’s two or three containers per customer.

At this point, we’ve kind of hit a plateau in terms of acquiring new customers, but are trying to figure out new ways to advertise our services,” Core said. “We are also looking into building relationships with apartment complexes to do larger community pickups.”

Image via Arlington County

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Arlingtonians have recycled over a million pounds of glass at the drop-off center since January, a record likely to keep up if everyone stays bottled up in quarantine.

Last April, Arlington County ditched its curbside glass recycling program as separating out and recycling glass had become overly expensive. Instead, Arlingtonians were asked to drop off their glass recycling at dedicated containers that were then taken to Fairfax County for reuse in construction, building, and — more recently — recycling into new glass products.

Since the launch of the drop-off recycling program, county officials say there have been two million pounds of glass recycled, half of which as been over the last few months.

“A million pounds since January was impressive and we’ll likely see another million at a much faster pace for obvious reasons,” as residents stay at home amid the pandemic, said Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin. “ABC stores are definitely doing strong business as are the grocery stores.”

Golkin said recyclers are asked to avoid late night or early morning drop-offs at the residential drop-off sites like Cherrydale to avoid loud clattering.

Photo via Arlington County

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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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Morning Notes

Public-Private Partnership for Pentagon City Planning — “County Board members on Jan. 25 approved a memorandum of understanding with the coalition of property owners in [Pentagon City], which will guide planning efforts and allocate $1.5 million – about two-thirds of it from the county government, the rest from landowners – to complete it. County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said the aim was a coordinated strategy for redevelopment of the target area, which totals about 85 acres.” [InsideNova]

APS Investigating Swastika Incident — “School officials launched an investigation this week after a student drew a swastika on a piece of paper and handed it to a classmate at a Northern Virginia middle school. The incident took place Tuesday at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Arlington, according to a letter that Principal Keisha Boggan sent parents Wednesday. The hate symbol was later reported to Arlington County police.” [Washington Post]

Industry Supporting Glass Drop-Off Program — “Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) members are partnering to create a circular economy for high quality recycled glass in Northern Virginia. O-I Glass, Inc. (O-I Glass) and Strategic Materials are teaming up to create strong markets for glass in the region through a new glass recycling drop-off program.” [Press Release]

Thanks, Arlington — Thank you to everyone who came out to our 10th anniversary party at Bronson Bierhall in Ballston last night. It was a packed house and we are incredibly grateful to have that kind of support from members of the community, local institutions like the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, local government, and our advertisers — who help support ARLnow and keep our local news free for all. We also met a few commenters and a few soon-to-be commenters last night (you know who you are). Finally, a big thank you to our current and former employees, whose tireless work has helped us reach this anniversary while growing to serve other communities in Northern Virginia.

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As much as it seemed to make economic sense, the announcement last year that Arlington County would no longer recycle glass collected curbside struck many residents as wasteful.

But there is an emerging silver lining.

Fairfax County said this month that the glass coming from dedicated collection bins in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County and elsewhere in Northern Virginia has been of sufficiently high quality that, in addition to being crushed and used as construction materials, some is now going to a processing facility and is being recycled into new glass products, like bottles and fiberglass.

More from a Fairfax County press release:

North America’s largest glass recycler, Strategic Materials, has begun transporting glass from our processing plant in Lorton to one of its recycling facilities. There, the glass will be processed and sold to manufacturers of a wide range of glass products. One such customer is Owens-Illinois, Inc. also known as O-I, which produces 3.6 million bottles a day at its bottle manufacturing plants in Danville and Toano, Va.

Glass collected in Virginia and recycled into glass bottles in Virginia closes the loop on the circular economy, a goal of sustainable communities. According to O-I, glass-to-glass recycling uses less energy than making bottles from original material, reduces carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and supports hundreds of jobs.

“This new market for our glass wouldn’t be possible without our residents,” said John Kellas, solid waste management program director. “They have adjusted their glass recycling habits and are filling up our purple cans almost faster than we can empty them. I appreciate their willingness to participate in the program and their patience as we identify additional drop-off locations and work through the logistics of the new collection routes.”

The quality and volume of clean glass resulted in the partnership with Strategic Materials, which is taking the glass before it’s crushed by the county’s “Big Blue” machine.

“Fairfax County probably has the highest quality of material we’ve seen in a drop-off program,” said Laura Henneman, vice president of marketing and communications for Strategic Materials. “The trial glass load was about 98 to 99 percent usable glass, which is incredible.”

The biggest problem with curbside glass recycling collection is that the glass is commingled with other materials — from recyclable paper, metal and plastic, to un-recyclable and contaminated materials that guilty residents “wish” could be recycled. The level of sorting needed to separate out the usable glass helps make it uneconomical, along with the fact that glass is a more resource-intensive material to recycle.

With a cleaner stream of glass, recycling is more feasible.

Arlingtonians can pat themselves on the back for their dedication to bringing glass to the county’s five drop-off sites. Residents dropped off more than 1 million pounds of glass at the bins in 2019, according to the county.

More on the “smashing success” of the glass recycling program, from Fairfax County:

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Morning Notes

Christmas Tree Collection Underway — “Trees collected by the County the first two full weeks after Christmas are turned into mulch available from County facilities. From Dec. 30 through Jan. 10, place trees at curb no later than 6 a.m. on your regular trash collection day after removing ALL decorations, nails, stands. Do not place trees in plastic bags.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

Amazon Continuing to Hire for HQ2 — “By the end of 2020, Amazon plans to reach nearly 1,600 employees at the Arlington headquarters, and by December 2021 it expects more than 3,500 workers. The hiring will accelerate further in 2023 and beyond.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlingtonians Drop Off Tons of Glass — “Cheers to a successful start to Arlington’s glass recycling drop-off program. The County is closing out 2019 with more than 1 million pounds (500 tons) of collected glass for recycling in less than nine months. That’s equivalent to the weight of 27 ART buses.” [Arlington County]

Courthouse Apartments Trade Hands — “Bell Partners Inc., based in Greensboro, has acquired Vista on Courthouse, a 220-unit multifamily complex in Arlington, Virginia. The property will be renamed Bell at Courthouse and will be managed by Bell Partners. The acquisition from Equity Residential is Bell Partners’ second this year in Arlington.” [Triad Business Journal]

Reminder: NYE Events in Arlington — For procrastinators, here’s ARLnow’s listing of notable New Year’s Eve events in Arlington. [ARLnow]

Photo courtesy Dave Statter

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Morning Notes

Home Sale Prices Near HQ2 Drop — “Home prices in the neighborhoods where Amazon.com Inc. is setting up its second headquarters dipped to below pre-HQ2 prices for the first time since the company made the announcement just over a year ago. The median sale price for [the 22202 ZIP code] was $507,500 — a 12% drop from median prices in November 2018.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

HQ2 May Help Balance Local Dating Scene — “For every 100 single, college-educated individuals in the Washington area, women outnumber men 53-47. And single women with college degrees are coming here at a faster clip than men in the same demographic, census data show… could Amazon’s expansion into Arlington import enough men to give some local women a statistically better shot at love?” [WAMU]

Big Emergency Response in Pentagon City — From Arlington County Police, regarding a large emergency response outside the Pentagon City mall around 8 p.m. last night: “Police responded to the report of a fight. One victim suffered minor injuries.” [Twitter, Twitter]

New Art Installation on ART Buses — “The latest Art on the ART Bus exhibit is up! The exhibit features seven letter-pressed placards that honor Arlington’s 60th anniversary of the seven lunch counter sit-ins from June 9 to June 22, 1960. The sit-ins were peaceful protests to challenge widespread segregation policies.” [Arlington Transit]

Nearby: Alexandria Also Ends Glass Recycling — “Alexandria will no longer collect glass curbside for recycling… Starting Jan. 15, if you’re hoping to get your glass recycled rather than just tossed out with the trash, you’ll have to take it down to the purple bins at one of four facilities in southern Alexandria.” [ALXnow]

Photo courtesy Dave Statter

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