The conservationists with Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment are celebrating the group’s 40th anniversary by adopting a new name: EcoAction Arlington.
The group made the change official on Earth Day, April 22, but executive director Elenor Hodges says the rebranding has been in the works for the last year-and-a-half or so.
“We’ve moved a little beyond just working toward a clean environment,” Hodges told ARLnow. “1978 was a different time.”
Those behind the newly christened EcoAction Arlington have worked for decades to organize environmentally-focused community initiatives, like programs to help people save energy at home or move to solar power. But Lydia Cole, the group’s communications manager, felt the organization just wasn’t reaching younger Arlingtonians and needed a bit of a change.
“People who’ve engaged with ACE in the past were part of the baby boomer generation, or Generation X,” Cole said. “Now, there are lots of millennials, lots of young professionals in Arlington, but we’re not getting many of them. So that was our focus in how we approached our new name. They’re going to be the future.”
The group’s leaders first started mulling a name change in earnest as they worked to overhaul the organization’s strategic plan three years ago. As the group charted out a new direction, Cole says it also wanted a name that better reflects its goals.
“ACE definitely spoke to who we were and some of what we do, but it didn’t speak at all to how we go about doing it,” Cole said.
Cole worked together with a graphic designer to brainstorm possible new names and logos, and compiled a list of about 20 or 30 possibilities. She says they even convened a focus group to sort through some of those options to whittle down the list even further.
Ultimately, the group’s board of directors opted for “EcoAction” because it conveyed their desire to focus on “action-oriented events and activities” centered on the environment.
For example, in the coming months EcoAction will be launching a drive encouraging people to use less plastic in their homes. By the fall, Hodges also hopes to start working with Arlington restaurants to convince them to abandon plastic straws. With those new programs and the new name, she aims to pull in a younger crowd sooner rather than later.
“Just being able to find us more easily, I think, will help, as well as increasing opportunities to get involved,” Hodges said. “If picking up trash isn’t your thing, we’ll have options for you.”
Photo via EcoAction Arlington
If you live in a single-family home in Arlington, the trash you put out for collection each week eventually comes back to you — in the form of electricity.
While the Arlington recycling rate is nearly 50 percent, well above the national average of about 35 percent, that means that there still is plenty of garbage to deal with. All that waste has to go somewhere and much of it ends up at a waste-to-energy plant in Alexandria, near the Van Dorn Street Metro station, that Arlington jointly owns with the city.
Covanta, the company that operates the facility, estimates that they process 975 tons of solid waste per day, distributed among the three 325 ton-per-day furnaces on-site, preventing it from ending up in a landfill.
“In some ways, the U.S. can be seen as a third-world country, with the way we’re putting garbage in landfills,” said James Regan, Covanta’s media director.
Arlington and Alexandria’s municipal waste goes through an emissions-controlled incinerator, where the controlled fire reaches temperatures just under 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The fire boils water, which in turn generates steam and, through that, electricity.
That generates about 23 megawatts of baseload power, according to Regan, enough to power about 20,000 homes.
Emissions are monitored throughout the processes, with a few-dozen-or-so knobs, buttons and devices each focused on a different aspect of the process.
With all the capabilities, however, the control room’s goal is threefold: to monitor multiple security camera feeds in case of the occasional, small fire in the trash pit; to monitor temperatures in the combustion chamber; and pollution monitoring and emissions controls.
The combustion has led to a 90 percent reduction of waste by volume, which the company says offsets, on average, one ton of carbon dioxide equivalent for each ton of waste processed.
Both ferrous and non-ferrous metals are able to be extracted from the combustion and recycled, and Covanta is currently developing ways to reuse ash “as aggregate for roadways and construction materials.”
The facility has been burning trash since February 1988, according to Bryan Donnelly, the Arlington/Alexandria facility manager.
Prior to that, there was another incinerator, but it didn’t have the emissions controls or metal recovery program that the current waste-to-energy plant has.
New plants can cost as much as $500 million, but tend to be much larger than Arlington’s plant, which is only four acres — the smallest operated by Covanta. Most other plants are closer to 24 acres, according to Regan.
He estimates that this facility, in today’s dollars, would have cost about $200 million.
“We’re not saying take everything to [a waste-to-energy] facility,” said Regan. “We’re saying, let’s recycle more, to 65 percent. Let’s reduce the amount of landfill that [the U.S.] is doing,”
Exterior view via Google Maps
Arlington’s twice yearly Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE) is will return later this month.
The event is scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 31, at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd). The event, which will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., allows county residents to dispose of hazardous household materials, bikes, shoes, small metal items, clothing and other items that can be recycled but not through normal pick up.
Residents planning on dropping off household hazardous materials must bring the items in the original containers or in properly labelled storage. Leaking containers must also be packed in a way to prevent spilling.
Nonhazardous trash and business waste will not be accepted. Residents need to bring identification to verify residency.
The following materials are accepted:
- Automotive fluids
- 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
- Paint products (25-can limit)
- Photographic chemicals
- Poisons (pesticides)
- Propane gas cylinders (small hand-held or larger)
- Swimming pool chemicals
The following material are not accepted:
- Explosives and ammunition
- Medical wastes
- Prescription medications
- Radioactive materials
- Smoke detectors
Photo by Peter Golkin
Arlington’s recycling rate rose to 48.5% in 2017, up slightly from 2016. The county credits the rise to its implementation of year-round, weekly curbside yard waste collection for homes and duplexes.
The recycling rate was 46.8% in 2016 and 44.5% in 2015, the year that year-round collection was unanimously approved by the County Board. The project was expected to divert up to 9,000 tons of compostable materials from regular trash collection. It came with a $47 per-year price tag for Arlington homeowners.
Arlington’s 2016 recycling rate was well above the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 national estimate of 34.6%.
The amount of yard waste that was thrown in the trash plummeted from 26% to 5%, according to the 2017 Arlington County Annual Report.
An Arlington County Board recommendation cited a September 2015 survey which found that 70% of single-family home Arlington residents believed that increasing the county’s recycling rate was important. There were 4,283 survey participants. The survey also asked whether or not those residents supported year-round yard waste collection despite the additional cost, to which 60% indicated that they did support the initiative.
In 2017, Virginia’s Dept. of Environmental Quality awarded Arlington a bronze medal for the year-round yard waste collection as part of the governor’s environmental excellence awards.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Dimick
While regular batteries made of zinc carbon and alkaline can be thrown away, rechargeable batteries must be recycled, otherwise they might burn in the trash or cause ecological issues.
To prevent a possible a fire at home, rechargeable batteries along with lithium, silver oxide and mercury batteries can be dropped off at the following locations in Arlington:
- Best Buy (Pentagon City) – 1201 S. Hayes St., Suite B
- Fire Station 1 (Glebe Road) – 500 S. Glebe Road
- Fire Station 2 (Ballston) – 4805 Wilson Blvd.
- Fire Station 4 (Clarendon) – 3121 10th St. N.
- Fire Station 5 (Jefferson District/Aurora Highlands) – 1750 S. Hayes St.
- Fire Station 7 (Fairlington) – 3116 S. Abingdon St.
- Fire Station 8 (Lee Highway) – 4845 Lee Highway
- Fire Station 9 (Walter Reed) – 1900 S. Walter Reed Drive
- Fire Station 10 (Rosslyn) – 1559 Wilson Blvd.
- Households Hazardous Material Facility – 530 31st St. S.
At the fire station, residents can just hand over their batteries to fire personnel at the building’s entrance or, where available, place the batteries in an orange collection bin outside the station.
In order to drop off the batteries at the Household Hazardous Material Facility, an appointment must be scheduled between Monday and Friday, according to the county website. Residents can drop off materials without an appointment on Saturday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Other nearby battery recycling locations, according to Call2Recycle, include Home Depot and Lowe’s stores, along with Falls Church city government headquarters at 300 Park Avenue.
Bar Owner Trolled By ‘Catfish’ Account — Someone is impersonating Scott Parker, co-owner of A-Town, Don Tito, Barley Mac and G.O.A.T., on social media, in an apparent attempt to damage his reputation. The “catfish” recently sent a journalist a profanity-laced rant that encouraged her to kill herself. [Washingtonian, Twitter]
Columbia Pike Water Main Break — Crews are currently working to repair a water main break on the 5500 block of Columbia Pike. The street is partially blocked and some 50-100 water customers have their service affected by the break. [Twitter]
Local Mother Grapples With Son’s Mental Illness — “The night of March 31, 2017, he became so inconsolable, screaming and weeping, that she called the police and had him involuntarily hospitalized at an Arlington hospital. He stayed two weeks, but because he is an adult, and because a hospital must release people from involuntary care when it no longer believes they meet commitment standards, doctors discharged him.” [Washington Post]
Wardian Strikes Again — “A little over a week ago, [ultramarathoner Michael] Wardian pulled off one of his most challenging back-to-backs yet, running the Pikes Peak Marathon, featuring 7,815 feet of elevation gain and an equal amount of loss on a rugged mountain course that tops out at 14,115 feet – in 6 hours, 2 minutes and 55 seconds, mere hours after finishing tenth in the Leadville 100 in 20 hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds.” [Medium]
County Testing New ‘ePlan’ Payments — Arlington County is seeking users to test its new electronic payments system for those filing Building Permits, Land Disturbing Activity (LDA) Permits and Civil Engineering Plans (CEP) online. The system is likely to be seen as progress by those who have previously critiqued the county’s cumbersome permitting process. [Arlington County]
Last Call for Christmas Tree Recycling — Friday is the last day for recycling Christmas trees via curbside pickup in Arlington. ‘Recycled’ trees will be turned into mulch. [Arlington County]
For those already looking forward to the end of the holidays, Arlington County’s Christmas tree collection program begins in early January.
The program goes through the first two weeks in January, from January 2-12.
“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,” a blurb on the program reads. “The trees are later ground into wood mulch for garden use.”
Anyone who does not have a curbside recycling service can bring their Christmas trees to the Solid Waste Bureau during the collection season.
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]