The following letter was written by Ryan Bloom, Chloe Fugle, Maria McGlone and Ethan Novak, student board members of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment.
A little-noticed Arlington County government report that was issued during hurricane season should be read as a call for action on a local issue that concerns a growing number of public school students and other Arlingtonians: recycling efforts in our public schools.
The September report by the County Solid Waste Bureau (SWB) concluded that, while Arlington County as a whole has a recycling rate of 46.8 percent, the rate for Arlington Public Schools (APS) is estimated to be 15 percent. This is below the minimum recycling rate of 25 percent mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The 15 percent estimate for APS recycling is not surprising given our observations and those of the SWB in school cafeterias, hallways and classrooms. SWB reported that 70 percent of schools are not fully compliant with County recycling code; even almost two years after the code came into effect.
For example, schools’ recycling bins sometimes lack clear, explanatory signs and these bins are often not co-located with trash bins. The result is often confusion about what goes in what particular bin resulting in students and teachers tossing both recyclables and trash in the nearest container.
The SWB reports that few schools have a successful cafeteria recycling system, which is the likely result of a “… lack of clear administrative standards and policies concerning a recycling culture campus-wide.”
Our public schools should be a model for effective stewardship practices, rather than a source of embarrassment. Students develop lifelong habits based on what they see and are taught in their homes, schools and communities.
Moreover, taxpayers benefit from effective recycling practices since disposing of trash is typically more expensive than recycling. The County Board has resolved to achieve “zero waste” by 2038, which will only be achieved if our families and institutions, including APS, take action today and implement an effective recycling system fully compliant with County recycling code.
- Ryan Bloom, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
- Chloe Fugle, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
- Maria McGlone, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
- Ethan Novak, Arlington, Student Board Member, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters about issues of local interest. To submit your thoughts for consideration, please email [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.
Delays on Blue, Orange Lines Due to Person Struck — A person was struck by a train at the L’Enfant Metro station around 9:30 this morning. The incident is causing delays on the Blue and Orange lines, as service has been suspended between L’Enfant and Federal Center. Silver Line trains are operating between Wiehle and Ballston. [Twitter, Twitter, Washington Post]
Reminder: E-CARE Event This Weekend — Arlington County is holding its biannual Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE) on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This time around the venue has changed; the recycling and hazardous household materials collection event is now being held at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd). [Arlington County]
Scott Disick Comes to Arlington, Disses ARLnow — Updated at 12:10 p.m. — Reality TV personality Scott Disick lorded over the grand opening ceremony for Sugar Factory in Pentagon City last night. About 100 people, mostly young women, showed up for the event, according to an ARLnow employee on the scene. Disick did interviews with local news outlets, but PR reps cut off the interviews and ushered Disick away just as our employee was next in line. [Twitter, Facebook, Daily Mail]
Kirwan’s Opens to Big Crowds — Mark Kirwan, owner of Samuel Beckett’s in Shirlington, may have another hit on his hands. His new bar, Kirwan’s on the Wharf in Southwest D.C., was packed last night before the Foo Fighters concert at the Anthem. [Facebook]
Courthouse Plaza Parking Lot Closed Sunday — The county’s Courthouse Plaza parking lot will be closed most of the day Sunday for the 2017 Animal Welfare League of Arlington Pints 4 Paws event. [Arlington County]
Marymount Makes USNWR Top Tier — “Marymount University is once again in the top tier among Regional Universities in the South in several categories, ranking 52nd overall in the 2018 edition of ‘Best Colleges’ by U.S. News & World Report.” [Marymount University]
AIRE Wins Regional Award — The Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy was among this year’s recipients of the Climate and Energy Leadership Awards from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. AIRE’s Energy Lending Library “makes it easy to check out a thermal camera, a box of 10 different LED bulbs, energy meter, and Do-It-Yourself energy retrofit books through the library system free of charge,” notes COG. [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Home Sales Increase — The number of homes sold in Arlington last month totaled 252, which is an 18.3 percent increase over last year. The average length of time between listing and ratified sales contract for homes that went to closing in March was 55 days, which is unchanged from last year. [InsideNova]
E-CARE Recycling Event on Saturday — Arlington County will hold its biannual E-CARE event on Saturday. Residents can safely dispose of items including household hazardous materials, bikes, small metal items, clothing and compact fluorescent light bulbs. The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 15 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road). [Arlington County]
Wardian Runs Barkley Marathon — Well-known Arlington marathoner Michael Wardian competed in the notoriously difficult Barkley Marathons trail race, but he did not finish under the 60-hour time limit. In fact, only one person finished the race this year. Wardian says this was one of the most difficult races he’s ever done. [Washington Post]
For those who are served by Arlington County’s curbside trash pickup, Christmas tree collection will run from Jan. 2-13, 2017.
“Residents are reminded to place the tree on the curb no later than 6 a.m. on your regular trash collection day and to remove all decorations, nails, stands and plastic bags,” the county notes on its website. “The trees are later ground into wood mulch for garden use.”
Arlington residents can also bring their trees to the county’s Solid Waste Bureau near Shirlington for recycling. Or, if you want to hang on to your tree well into the new year, just throwing in the trash is an option.
“After Jan. 13, please prepare the tree for yard waste collection on your regular trash collection day,” the county website says.
County to Buy Houses for Fire Station — The Arlington County Board last night approved the purchase of two houses on N. Culpeper Street for a total of $1.68 million. The houses are needed for the construction of a new Fire Station No. 8. One house will be torn down to make way for a temporary fire station, while the other will serve as quarters for firefighters at the station. [Arlington County]
Boeing to Move Defense HQ to Arlington — Boeing is moving the headquarters of its Defense, Space and Security unit from St. Louis to its existing regional HQ in Crystal City. The move will bring about a dozen top executives and fifty support staff to Arlington. [Washington Business Journal]
County Buying Bus Maintenance Site in Springfield — County Board members unanimously approved the $4.65 million purchase of 2.15 acre industrial site in Springfield, Va., to be used as a future heavy maintenance facility for Arlington Transit buses. After it is built, the facility will replace the current leased ART maintenance facility, located in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
ACPD Distributing Toys for the Holidays — Arlington County Police Department officers have been delivering toys to Arlington Public Schools families in need, after collecting the toys during the department’s Fill the Cruiser drive. [Twitter]
Recycling Center Move Approved — The Four Mile Run Drive self-serve recycling center will soon be moving to the Arlington Trades Center, as expected. The County Board unanimously approved the move at its Tuesday night meeting. “County workers will be better able to monitor recycling at this location, to make sure the site is maintained properly and remains litter-free,” said Board Chair Libby Garvey. [Arlington County]
Arlington County’s self-serve recycling center on Four Mile Run Drive at Columbia Pike may be moving to the Arlington Trades Center.
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on the move at its meeting this Saturday.
County staff proposed the move “in response to community concerns about aesthetics and illegal dumping.”
The Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street) is a hub of county maintenance activity. It is located near Shirlington, 1.5 miles away from the current recycling center location. The move “would allow for a more controlled drop-off location,” county staff say.
The cost of the move would be “minimal” and could be completed by mid-January, according to the staff report.
The Four Mile Run recycling center is one of two in the county: another is located in Quincy Park, at the corner of N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd, near Washington-Lee High School.
“Both of the Recycling Centers provide for the drop-off of single stream recyclable materials, including: mixed paper, cardboard, metal cans, plastic bottles, food containers and glass,” said the staff report. “These facilities are particularly useful to provide small businesses a convenient and inexpensive way to comply with the County Code’s recycling requirements.”
The report says county staffers have conducted extensive community outreach in advance of the Board’s decision.
Arlington Featured on MTP — Arlington County was featured in a Meet the Press segment on Sunday, comparing the level of support for Hillary Clinton here to support for Donald Trump in a rural Ohio county. The show interviewed residents in the Clarendon area. [NBC News]
Surge in Registration, Absentee Voting — Officials are anticipating about 43,000 absentee ballots in Arlington this year, up 50 percent compared to the last presidential election in 2012. Throughout the region and the state, absentee voting is on the rise, which is generally good news for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, a surge in last-minute voter registrations yesterday and a statewide software slowdown has the county advising that it could take several days to process all of the applications. [Washington Post, WTOP, WTOP]
Vehicle Decal Design Contest Starts — The Treasurer’s Office Decal Design Competition is back for another year. Local high school students will compete to design the next Arlington County vehicle decal, which will appear on some 160,000 vehicles in the county. The submission deadline is Nov. 28. [Arlington County]
Pike Recycling Center May Move — Next month the Arlington County Board is expected to consider whether to relocate the recycling facility at the corner of Columbia Pike and Four Mile Run Drive to the Arlington Trades Center in Shirlington. County officials want to lower the level of illegal dumping that’s currently taking place. [InsideNova]
Historic Designation for Ballston Cemetery? — On Wednesday night Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board will discuss the merits of a proposed local historic district designation for the Ball cemetery in Ballston. The cemetery is currently slated to be relocated to make way for the redevelopment of a church. [Preservation Arlington]
Last Day at Fuego Cocina — Fuego Cocina y Tequileria in Clarendon served its final meals and margaritas Sunday. “We’re turning the light off now. Farewell,” the restaurant said via Twitter. [Twitter, Twitter]
E-CARE Event This Weekend — Arlington County will hold its biannual E-CARE recycling event this Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road). The event allows Arlington residents to drop off “household hazardous materials, bikes, small metal items, shoes, clothing and other recyclable items.” [Arlington County]
Arlington GOP Says No to Metro — The Arlington County Republican Committee voted to oppose a transportation bond on the local November ballot. GOP members objected to the portion of the bond that would fund Arlington’s obligatory share of Metro’s capital budget, saying that voting no would send a message to Metro’s management. [InsideNova]
Reminder: Hey Frase Podcast — The Hey Frase Podcast will be holding a live taping tonight at the Clarendon Ballroom. Hosts Sarah Fraser and Samy K will be interviewing the “King of Arlington,” A-Town Bar and Grill and Don Tito partner Scott Parker. They will also be giving away ARLnow t-shirts to a few lucky attendees before the show. [Facebook]
Changes at Ragtime — Long-time Courthouse watering hole Ragtime recently introduced new accordion windows that open the bar up to fresh air. “Perfect timing for fall,” Ragtime touted in a Facebook post last week. [Facebook]
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) About 4,600 businesses in Arlington County are newly subject to stringent recycling requirements this year.
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.”
“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.
Students at Yorktown High School have released a petition seeking integrated recycling bins for the school’s hallways and classrooms.
Right now, the school uses a system of regular trash cans and blue recycling bins to sort its garbage.
“One would think that we already have an effective system as there are blue recycling bins in every single classroom,” said the petition. “However, these recycling bins are just treated as normal trash cans by a majority of students. This eliminates the whole purpose of the recycling bins and teaches students that the environment is not that important and can be overlooked or put aside.”
The new integrated recycling bins would streamline the recycling process into one large bin. One side is marked for recyclables such as paper, glass and plastic. The other side is labeled for landfill trash.
The petition has a goal of 1,000 signatures. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had received just over 150 signatures.
So you heard last fall that Arlington’s recycling contractor was no longer recycling plastic bags. No big deal, you can just take all of those grocery and shopping bags to your nearest supermarket for recycling.
But it’s still okay to put a garbage bag full of recyclables into the blue bin, right?
Even garbage bags are verboten under the new policy.
“In the past, our recycling processor allowed County recycling customers to put plastic bags in their recycling carts,” Erik Grabowsky, Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau Chief, tells ARLnow.com. “However, the processor cannot accept these plastic bags anymore because they wrap around processing equipment and disrupt operations. We ask that residents stop putting plastic bags in their recycling carts.”
Also, make sure that plastic films — including bubble wrap, saran wrap and those little air pockets that come in Amazon.com boxes — stay out of the recycling.
There’s a rumor going around that the presence of any plastic bag in a recycling bin automatically forces the recycling crew to dump it as trash. A “stinky policy,” is how one tipster described it. But that’s not exactly true, Grabowsky says.
“The presence of a few plastic bags in a recycling bin does not make the entire bin trash,” he said. “The processor would not discard the entire contents of the bin or a truckload as trash. However, we ask that residents be proactive and refrain from putting plastic bags in recycling bins.”
The policy applies to residents who are served by the county’s trash and recycling service. Those living in apartment buildings or condos have their recycling picked up by a private contractor, which may have different rules.
Flickr pool photo by Aaron Webb
As in previous years, Arlington County will be conducting its curbside Christmas tree collection during the first two full weeks of January. In 2016, the collection will run from Monday, Jan. 4 to Friday, Jan. 15.
“Residents are reminded to place the tree on the curb no later than 6 a.m. on your regular trash collection day and to remove all decorations, nails, stands and plastic bags,” the county said on its website. “The trees are later ground into wood mulch for garden use.”
Those who live in condos or other places without residential curbside trash collection can opt to schlep their trees Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau near Shirlington for recycling. Residents are asked to call 703-228-6570 to make an appointment to drop off a tree there. Proof of Arlington residence is required.
Year-round yard waste collection is coming to Arlington
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a measure that will provide curbside collection of yard waste year round for Arlington households.
The new service is expected to divert up to 9,000 tons of compostable materials from trash collection and raise the county’s recycling rate, which is already the highest in the region.
While Arlington’s solid waste rate remains the lowest in the region, the yard waste collection will ultimately cost homeowners an extra $47 per year.
Critics have said that the extra cost will hurt already-burdened Arlington homeowners. Critics also say that the extra trucks required to haul the yard waste may produce more greenhouse gasses than are saved by not sending the yard waste with other trash to a waste-to-energy plant, as is current practice.
The county’s press release about year-round yard waste collection, after the jump.
That’s the message from Arlington County, which is no longer accepting plastic bags as part of their curbside recycling program. Instead, those wishing to get rid of grocery bags need to take them back to grocery stores, which can recycle them.
The change comes as a result of new recommendations from the county’s Solid Waste Bureau, said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Meghan McMahon.
Plastic bags can be difficult to recycle because of their flimsy nature, McMahon said.
“Plastic bags tend to get stuck and cause damage to the recycling facility machines,” she said. “Recycling companies can spend hours shutting down machinery and pulling out the bags.”
The county has a list of grocery stores accepting plastic bags for recycling available on its website, McMahon said. According to the website, plastic bags can be placed in marked containers outside of certain grocery stores.
“Combine bags with other bags or place liners or plastic film inside other plastic bags,” the county said on its website. “Many Arlington retail stores such as Whole Foods, Costco, Safeway, Harris Teeter and Giant collect and recycle plastic bags. Look for the specially marked containers when you are out in the County. Or, reuse your bags during your next visit to store.”
Arlington will still recycle paper bags, like those from Whole Foods.
The recycling change came as a surprise to some residents.
Marianne Petrino-Schaad, a Douglas Park resident, said the county did not send out a letter informing residents about the changes.
‘The only way we seemed to be notified of this was a little magnet stuck in the trash pickup,” Petrino-Schaad said. The magnet, pictured above, notes items that should not be recycled in addition to those that should. Previously, the county advised residents to recycle bags by placing multiple plastic bags in one bag.
While taking the plastic bags to a grocery store is not too much of a hassle, she said she was frustrated that residents pay for recycling services and now they aren’t taking items like plastic bags, wire coat hangers and shredded newspaper.
“To my mind it’s an example of what I call, and other people, call shadow work,” she said.
Arlington’s biannual Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE) has been rescheduled for the end of October due to rainy weather.
The recycling event will now happen on Halloween (Oct. 31) from 8:30 a.m to 3 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road).
“The Arlington Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE) is an event where Arlington residents can safely dispose of household hazardous materials and recycle bikes, small metal items, shoes and clothing, among other things,” the county said on its website.
The county is waiving the $20 recycling fee for televisions and $15 recycling fee for computer monitors due to the inconvenience of having to reschedule.
E-CARE was originally scheduled for this Saturday, Oct. 3, but was cancelled as the result of anticipated rain from a nor’easter hitting the area this weekend.