Arlington, VA

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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Arlington County is holding is popular, biannual E-CARE recycling and disposal event this weekend.

The event — formally, the Arlington Environmental Collection and Recycling Event — provides Arlington residents an opportunity to safely dispose of bulky and hazardous items, from bikes to batteries, paint to printers.

The event is being held on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at 1425 N. Quincy Street, across from Washington-Liberty High School.

The following are among the accepted items that can be dropped off by residents (business and commercial waste is not accepted).

  • Automotive fluids
  • Batteries
  • Car care products
  • Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)
  • Corrosives (acids/caustics)
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Flammable solvents
  • Fluorescent tubes
  • Fuels/petroleum products
  • Household cleaners
  • Lawn and garden chemicals
  • Mercury
  • Paint products (25-can limit)
  • Photographic chemicals
  • Poisons (pesticides)
  • Printer ink/toner cartridges
  • Propane gas cylinders (small hand-held or larger)
  • Swimming pool chemicals […]

Mercury
We’ll collect household devices containing mercury (thermostats, thermometers, sphygmomanometers, manometers, barometers, hygrometers and liquid mercury). CFLs will also be collected on site.

Bikes
Bikes for the World will be accepting serviceable and repairable bikes to be sent to countries where they are needed for basic transportation. A $10 donation per bike is requested to offset shipping charges. Portable sewing machines, baseball and soccer equipment, and bike parts and accessories are also collected and shipped overseas with the reconditioned bikes. For more information, call 703-740-7856.

Small Metal Items
Acceptable small metal items include pots, pans, tools, pipes, venetian blinds, small appliances and metal items fitting an 11-1/2-inch by 46-inch opening.

Small metal items can also be dropped off at the Inert Materials and Scrap Metal Drop-Off Facility. Call 703-228-5000 for an appointment.

Electronics
Computers, printers, keyboards, scanners, copiers, cellphones and televisions (no large wooden console TVs) will be collected. There is a fee only for televisions ($20) and computer monitors ($15) containing cathode ray tubes (CRTs). Cash, exact change please, or checks (made payable to Arlington County Treasurer) only. All other screen and monitor drop-offs are free.

The following are not accepted at the event.

  • Asbestos
  • Explosives and ammunition
  • Freon
  • Medical wastes
  • Prescription medications
  • Radioactive materials
  • Smoke detectors
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Arlington County is adding three new places to drop off glass for recycling, and more are potentially on the way.

With glass off the curbside recycling list, Arlington residents have been flocking to the county’s two existing glass drop-off sites at Quincy Park and the Arlington Trades Center, going out of their way to recycle more than 200 tons of glass since this spring.

Officials have been working to add more sites, to make drop-offs more convenient for those who don’t want to throw away glass bottles in the trash. At Tuesday afternoon’s County Board meeting, three new sites were announced.

“Those customized purple and green containers will be added to Aurora Hills Community Center, another site at the Cherrydale Branch Library, and a third one at the Lee Community Center,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz, adding that the new roll-off bins “should appear over the next two weeks.”

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said during the meeting that “a few more” sites were needed, particularly in southern and central Arlington. More sites will come in time, Schwartz assured him.

County Board member Libby Garvey asked about the fact that the only way to deposit glass is via a few round holes in the side of the bins.

“People have to go bottle by bottle and they’ve found it frustrating to go slowly,” she said.

Schwartz explained that glass containers larger than bottles tend to cause problems in the recycling stream.

“Those holes are sized as they are — our analysis has shown that the larger containers of glass tend to be not as clean and pristine, people don’t spend time to clean them out,” Schwartz said. “Second, if you put those glass containers in, you’ll hear shattering… [the] holes are sized so that the glass doesn’t come back up.”

Glass dropped off at the bins is recycled and reused locally — sent to Fairfax County to be “crushed and turned into sand and gravel for use in paving, construction and landscaping,” according to Arlington County.

 

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Arlington residents have gone out of their way to chuck 200 tons of bottles and jars at a pair of drop-off locations since the County Board removed glass from the list of recyclable materials.

In April, county officials asked residents to throw their glass away in their black trash bins instead of blue recycling carts, citing the rising costs of recycling the material.

As an alternative, the county set up two designated glass drop-off sites at Quincy Park (N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd) and the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street). From there, the glass is transported to Fairfax County where it is turned into sand and gravel used in construction.

Schwartz said in April he hoped to identify three additional drop-off sites by August. The month has since passed, but officials say they’re close to announcing the new sites.

“I don’t want to jinx it, but it should be a matter of weeks,” said Peter Golkin, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Services. “We live in a tiny county where land is at a premium, so it’s a matter of making sure we can put the bins in a space where we can collect them with big trucks.”

Just over two-thirds of respondents to an ARLnow poll in May said they think Arlington should keep recycling glass in the residential recycling stream, no matter the cost. Some experts, however, say the cost of recycling glass outstrips the marginal environmental benefit compared to simply sending it to a landfill.

Flickr pool photo by Aaron Webb

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Morning Notes

(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Unusual Decorations in Former Startup Office — “The walls were covered in ‘hundreds’ of framed detective and noir movie posters, bills and actor headshots, McAfee said. There was food still in the office fridge, wedding photos on the desks, and a sign that read “Danny” in an office that is presumed to have belonged to Trustify founder Danny Boice.” [Washington Business Journal]

Sen. Howell Recovering from Medical Scare — “State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) can thank an injured ankle for alerting her to the fact she needed life-saving heart surgery. Howell shattered her ankle in late July while hiking on some rocks on an island in Upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains… Routine blood tests showed Howell had suffered a so-called “silent” heart attack that often strikes women.” [InsideNova]

ACFD Trains at Waterpark — “Members of our Water Rescue team were at Great Waves Waterpark today training with their counterparts from @AlexandriaVAFD. Members practiced their skills while getting more familiar with each team’s members & capabilities.” [Twitter]

Glass Recycling Drop-off Gripes — Since Arlington County announced that glass was to be thrown in the trash, rather than placed in the recycling cart, many residents have been opting for the second option: bringing glass bottles and jars to designated recycling drop-off centers. But the drop-off bins reportedly only allow you to insert one item at a time, which has led to frustration and mishaps. [Falls Church News-Press]

Local Senior Sails Solo to Bermuda — “Juan Perez didn’t let age affect his decision or performance when the sailor recently decided to return to his hobby of boat racing. The 85-year-old longtime Arlington resident and retired mechanical engineer purchased a sailboat – a 28-foot tartan – then sailed alone for one leg of the  recent Bermuda One-Two race, from Newport, R.I., to St. George’s, Bermuda. He was the oldest competitor and had the smallest boat.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Polls Open for Democratic Primary — All Arlington voters can vote in today’s Democratic primary. Polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. You can find your polling place and other information on the state elections website. [Twitter]

Politico Profiles Prosecutor Primary — “One sign that this era of agitated civic life is not merely a reflection of Donald Trump or Twitter is that the agitation has penetrated, of all places, into Arlington County, Virginia. In normal times, Arlington politics are polite and consensus-driven, almost proudly dull.” [Politico]

Clarendon Street Closed for Construction — “Through mid-August: North Edgewood Street closed between Clarendon and Wilson boulevards due to construction. Absolutely no impact on Whole Foods organic produce or imported cheese selection.” [Twitter]

Trade Group Moving to Ballston — “The Infectious Diseases Society of America announced today that it will be relocating its headquarters to 4040 Wilson Boulevard in the Ballston Quarter area of Arlington, Va., a hub of advanced research learning, technology and science in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  The Society has been at its current location at 1300 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington since 2006.” [PR Newswire]

How Glass Is Being Recycled — “Ever wonder where your glass goes? If you properly recycle it in Northern Virginia these days, it gets crushed into sand and turned into construction material… ABC7 recently took a trip to Fairfax County’s I-95 landfill in Lorton, where we found a glass graveyard and a big blue machine.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Last month Arlington County announced that it would stop recycling glass collected curbside.

The decision, which only applies to the county’s residential recycling pickup and not to offices and apartment buildings, was explained as a matter of economics — it’s more expensive for the county to recycle glass than it is to incinerate and dispose of it in a landfill.

While recycling glass does save energy, it doesn’t save much compared to the more efficient aluminum, steel, paper and cardboard recycling processes. The cost to recycle glass isn’t worth the marginal energy savings, some say.

While there’s logic in that argument, some locals don’t like the idea of sending a recyclable material to landfills.

“If a community gives up glass, it is admitting defeat in the face of readily available alternatives,” said the writer of a letter published in the Sun Gazette.

The county does have an option for those who want their glass to be recycled, though it requires extra time and energy:

Alternatively, people can dump their glass at one of two designated drop-off locations — at Quincy Park (N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd) or the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street) — which carts it to Fairfax County for an experiment in paving roads with smashed up glass.

In a Facebook live chat yesterday, Erik Grabowsky, chief of Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau, said the public outreach process about change is still ongoing and Arlington will continue collecting glass in recycling bins through the end of July.

The county has not been recycling glass residents placed in blue carts, according to Peter Golkin, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Services. Instead, it was being pulled at the material recovery facility and trashed.

“By putting glass in the black carts, it goes to Covanta where it’s melted (not incinerated) with trash and those results are landfilled, saving the whole transportation/sorting issues with the recycling process that does also have an economic aspect,” Golkin said, in an email.

What do you think about the county no longer recycling glass?

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By Lindsey Wray

Whether you’re spring cleaning or applying the popular KonMari method to your home, think twice before overloading your trash can with unwanted items. Arlington offers lots of options for disposing of things that no longer spark joy, and they have nothing to do with the landfill.

Marie Kondo’s popular KonMari tidying process suggests keeping only items that “spark joy,” as described in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and in the recent Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

But just because items don’t work for you anymore doesn’t mean you can’t find another use for them somewhere else.

Here’s how:

Electronics

Dispose of cellphones, computers, printers, keyboards, etc., at Arlington’s Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE), held twice each year. The next E-CARE is this coming Saturday, May 4, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at 1425 N. Quincy Street. The event is free, but there is a charge to recycle televisions and computer monitors.

Clothing

Rather than taking all of your excess closet items to the Goodwill, consider finding other homes for them — and maybe making a bit of cash in the process. List newer items on Nextdoor to keep them right in your neighborhood, eliminating the cost and environmental impact of shipping. Not up for the hassle of managing the sales yourself? Get a free Clean-Out Kit from the virtual thrift store ThredUp, and mail in gently used items for resale or donation.

Books

If your bookshelves are buckling, find a few books you’re ready to part with and drop them at an Arlington library. Libraries also accept CDs, DVDs, and board games.

Papers

Although mixed paper (cardboard, magazines, newspapers, office paper, etc.) is collected in Arlington County’s curbside recycling program, if you’re getting rid of a lot at once, you may want to consider taking a load to a drop-off center. Find these at Quincy Park, N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd, or Trades Center, 2700 S. Taylor Street.

If your hard-copy files from 10 years ago no longer spark joy, let Arlington shred them for you. The County offers limited paper shredding for residents on the first Saturday of each month at 4300 29th Street S. For the website details and allowable items.

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Arlington County is asking residents to trash glass, following a vote by the County Board last night.

Board members passed an amendment to the county code allowing the County Manager to delete materials from the list of what Arlington recycles. The move was made to allow County Manager Mark Schwartz to remove glass from the list after officials said it had become too expensive to recycle.

The county says in a press release that those who receive residential trash and recycling pickup service in Arlington should throw away glass in their black trash containers instead of the blue recycling bins. That will make things easier for the county’s recycling processor, which is currently sending glass to landfills.

The new county directive does not apply to those in offices, apartments and other commercial properties, whose waste collection is handled by private contractors.

Alternatively, people can dump their glass at one of two designated drop-off locations — at Quincy Park (N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd) or the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street) — which carts it to Fairfax County for an experiment in paving roads with smashed up glass.

“The County anticipates establishing additional drop-off locations to make it more convenient for residents, though no specific sites are yet under consideration,” said the county’s press release. “Glass that customers deposit in their black trash carts will be processed at the Covanta Waste-to-Energy facility in Alexandria where it will be incinerated and turned into electricity.”

The county’s “single-stream” recycling systems often shatter glass, which then mixes up different-colored shards and reduces its value, Arlington’s chief of solid waste Erik Grabowsky previously told ARLnow.

Recouping lost value is also harder than ever because of China’s decision to stop accepting some recycling materials, which led Arlington’s recycling costs to rise from $15.73 per ton to $28.62 per ton in the last six months, according to Grabowksy.

“We do have to come to grips with the fundamental reality that we are living in a fraudulent experience,” said Board Chair Christian Dorsey last night. “Because every time we put glass in our blue containers it’s not doing what we expect that it does. It’s being put in a landfill which is contrary to what we want, and not only that, but it’s costing us more money to do it.”

Grabowsky said that removing glass will lower the county’s overall recycling rate this year by 1 percent.

The good news, he says, is that the current recycling rate is 50.1 percent — a number already exceeding the county’s goal to recycle 47 percent of waste by 2024.

Now Grabowksy and the county want people to think about buying less glass, and finding ways to re-purpose it before throwing it out.

“Ultimately, what we want to do is establish a new glass hierarchy for Arlington county,” he said. In the press release, the county said residents should consider prioritizing the purchase of items in containers made of “recyclable metal or even plastic.”

Mark Schwartz said he hoped to identify three additional location for glass drop-off centers by August, but acknowledged it may take more time adding recycling facilities to neighborhoods “may not be met warmly.”

Grabowsky said that starting next month, that the county will begin notifying people of the change in recycling glass with with digital and mailed letters.

“I didn’t anticipate that this would ever be an issue a few years ago,” Schwartz said. “But the economy and the international relationships we’ve had as the United States have changed in the last two years and some months, for some reason.”

Flickr pool photo by Aaron Webb

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