Press Club
An privately-owned overflowing trash can in Pentagon City. (photo courtesy of Rebecca/@rdc20132)

Overflowing trash cans are becoming a more common sight in Pentagon City and Crystal City, but the county is pledging to clean up the mess.

In recent days, several local residents posted photos on social media of neighborhood trash cans and recycling bins filled beyond the brim with soda cans, food wrappers, pizza boxes, coffee cups, and doggie bags. The problem, as noted, seemed to happen more on weekends.

https://twitter.com/rdc20132/status/1525557363557777410

County officials tell ARLnow that increased seasonal tourism and more weekend events are to blame, as both in the region are ramping back up after 2+ years of pandemic-related drop-offs.

“We are seeing a definite increase in use of public trash cans in parts of Arlington like Pentagon City, frequented by a lot of folks from out-of-town,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) spokesperson Peter Golkin tells ARLnow. “After the first two years of the pandemic, there’s a noticeable rise in tourism and this is the traditional high point for any year thanks to school trips. When a group pulls up, it’s natural to want to get rid of junk like food wrappers and soda cans, especially on big buses that drivers have to keep clean.”

Golkin says that there are more workers back in offices as well, grabbing lunch and coffee while disposing of the remains in public trash cans. Plus, the increasing number of events both in Arlington and in D.C. has resulted in more “water bottles and wrappers naturally [making] their way beyond the event site.”

There’s also the notion of not wanting to walk the extra block to find a less-filled trash can.

“The messy problem comes when a trash or recycling can is full and the urge is to just keep piling rather than look for something with room maybe a block or two down the street,” he says.

To help solve the issue, Golkin says that DES is shifting schedules to include specific weekend checks at trouble trash spots in addition to the regular weekday rounds. However, “tight staffing” does not make it “easy to re-allocate limited resources like staff time.”

Despite requests from some residents, there’s no current plan to add more trash and recycling receptacles to those areas most impacted.

“The Solid Waste Bureau will see if the increased servicing takes care of the issue or if additional steps are necessary,” Golkin notes.

Not all of the trash cans in those neighborhoods are serviced by the county, however.

DES monitors and manages four pairs of trash and recycling receptacles on each side of S. Hayes Street near the Pentagon City mall. But there are also a number of trash cans in the area that belong to privately-owned buildings and are required to be serviced by those property owners.

Additionally, another county department — the Department of Parks and Recreation — handles the waste around Virginia Highlands Park, which is up a few blocks from the mall on S. Hayes Street.

As County Board chair Katie Cristol noted on Twitter, residents can request service or report problems with trash or any other street issue 24/7 through the county’s “Report A Problem” portal. More broadly, the county is currently updating its nearly-two-decade-old solid waste management plan and is asking for public input.

Golkin is optimistic that shifting more service to the weekends will help alleviate the trash problem in Pentagon City and Crystal City. But he does have a simple request.

“If a receptacle is already full, try to hold on [to trash] until there’s a nearby can with room.”

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Morning Notes

Hawk withdrawing (Photo courtesy of Huskerdont/Flickr)

Towers Coming to Site in National Landing —  “Developers have closed on the purchase of a vacant site near Crystal City and Potomac Yard in Arlington, a transaction that paves the way for a new two-building project there.” [Washington Business Journal]

Anti-Vaccine-Mandate Rally Growing — “The event, called ‘Defeat the Mandates: An American Homecoming,’ plans a march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial… [A spokesperson] says the group has more than 36,000 signups; a permit application filed with the National Park Service… says it expects 20,000 people.” Organizers have been encouraging attendees to stay in Arlington. [Washingtonian]

Keep Uncollected Bins Out — “Curbside recycling/trash/organics collection resumed Monday, Jan. 10, following last week’s storms. Keep any carts left unemptied this week at the curb through Saturday, Jan. 15. The County’s contractor is making progress collecting about twice the regular tonnage but runs are slower, trucks fill faster and Covid has affected staffing.” [Arlington County]

MLK Mass This Weekend — “On Sunday, January 16, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, will celebrate a Mass in Observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. The annual Mass honors the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader who was slain almost 54 years ago.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]

Shred and Recycling Material Drop-Off — Each Arlington resident can shred up to two boxes or bags of paper or unload a small truckload of inert materials for free at a regularly held recycling event this Saturday. [Arlington County]

Return of 7000 Series Delayed Again — “Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld said today he will not resume the placement of 7000-series trains into passenger service for about 90 days to allow Metro engineering and mechanical experts time to focus on root cause analysis and acquire technology to measure 7000-series wheelsets. During the 90-day period, Metro will accelerate efforts to restore 6000-series railcars to increase the availability of newer cars in the fleet and improve reliability for customers.” [WMATA, Washington Post]

It’s Friday — Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 46. North wind 8 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Sunrise at 7:25 a.m. and sunset at 5:10 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 27. North wind 7 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph. On Sunday, snow is likely after 1 p.m. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy of Huskerdont/Flickr

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Washington-Liberty High School in the snow (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Your kids and your trash will be staying at home until next week.

Arlington Public Schools just announced that it will be closed for the fifth school day in a row, in anticipation of 2-4 inches of snow overnight. Students have not been in class since before the winter break.

More from APS:

Due to the winter weather advisory issued for Arlington, all schools and offices will be closed on Friday, January 7, 2022. Unless otherwise directed by their supervisors, maintenance staff should report to work at their scheduled time, and all custodians should report to work at 6 a.m. Extracurricular activities, games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County programs and operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.

The announcement follows closure announcements from Fairfax County Public Schools at 4 p.m. and Alexandria City Public Schools at 5 p.m.

Schools are not the only local closure of note tomorrow. Arlington County has already cancelled curbside trash and recycling collection.

Friday will be the third collection day this week — in addition to Monday and Tuesday — to be cancelled. Residents whose trash was not collected this week will have to wait until their next scheduled collection date next week.

In other words, prepare to see trash piling up in roughly three-fifths of Arlington’s single-family-home neighborhoods.

The special Christmas tree pickup, meanwhile, has been delayed by a week and is now set to start on Monday. From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services:

Curbside recycling/trash/organics collection is cancelled for Friday, Jan. 7 due to the expected overnight storm.

There will be no make-up collection days for this week.

Weather- and safety-permitting, curbside collections will resume Jan. 10 with regular Monday routes plus special Christmas tree collection. Free paper shredding and inert material drop-off scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 8 at the Trades Center has been postponed until Saturday, Jan. 15.

After being short-handed for Monday’s winter storm, Arlington snow crews are now working to pre-treat roads and prepare for tonight’s snowfall. About 2-4 inches of accumulation are expected, though the forecast has been trending toward the lower half of that range.

Arlington and much of the D.C. area is under a Winter Weather Advisory starting at 9 p.m. From the National Weather Service:

328 PM EST Thu Jan 6 2022

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY NOW IN EFFECT FROM 9 PM THIS EVENING TO 7 AM EST FRIDAY…

* WHAT…Snow accumulations of 2 to 4 inches.

* WHERE…The Washington and Baltimore Metropolitan areas, portions of central and southern Maryland, and portions northern Virginia.

* WHEN…From 9 PM this evening to 7 AM EST Friday.

* IMPACTS…Plan on slippery road conditions. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning commute.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…The heaviest snow is expected overnight when snowfall rates of 1 inch per hour are possible. Visibility will be reduced to near or less than one-half mile.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

Slow down and use caution while traveling.

When venturing outside, watch your first few steps taken on steps, sidewalks, and driveways, which could be icy and slippery, increasing your risk of a fall and injury.

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Snow on trash and recycling cans in North Arlington (staff photo)

If you live in a home that gets Arlington County’s trash collection service, with a Monday or Tuesday collection day, prepare to hang on to your refuse for another week.

Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Service said in an email this afternoon that Monday and Tuesday trash, recycling and organics collection has been cancelled due to “safety issues related to today’s storm.” Christmas tree collection has also been cancelled for those two days.

For those who now have to hold on to their trash for an extra week, “excess trash can be stored and placed curbside in plastic bags and personal containers with lids,” DES advised.

Collection service is expected to resume Wednesday on a normal schedule.

More from DES:

Greetings:

Because of safety issues related to today’s storm, Monday and Tuesday curbside recycling/trash/organics collection will not take place for those routes this week.

Weather-permitting, curbside service will resume Jan. 5 with regular Wednesday morning routes, continue on Jan. 6 with regular Thursday routes and conclude for the week on Jan. 7 with regular Friday routes. There will be no shifting of routes and days as previously publicized.

Excess trash can be stored and placed curbside in plastic bags and personal containers with lids.

The County offers two major recycling drop-off locations.

Special Christmas tree collection will resume Wednesday, weather-permitting, and continue through next week.

On behalf of the County’s contractor and its crews, thank you for your patience and understanding.

For the latest County office delays/cancellations, please visit [this page].

Sincerely,

Arlington County Department of Environmental Services

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If Arlington County collects your yard waste, you can now add food scraps to your green organics cart starting this week.

This collection service, which started on Monday, is now part of the county’s regular weekly trash, recycling and yard waste collection routes. Food scraps and yard waste will be delivered together to a professional composting facility in Prince William County.

“Food scrap collection represents years of planning and organization by County staff and members of the community, guided by the Solid Waste Bureau,” according to the Department of Environmental Services. “The new program makes Arlington one of the first localities in the nation to gather residential food waste as a part of standard curbside services.”

Eligible residents received a small, beige countertop food caddy — which, up until now, some have used as coolers — and a set of compostable bags last month. The county distributed the supplies so folks can store scraps inside and bring filled bags to their green carts.

DES recommends people keep the pail, lined with a compostable bag — available at Target, on Amazon and at grocery stores — on a kitchen counter. Just before one’s weekly trash pickup time, the food scraps should be bagged, put in the green cart and rolled out for collection.

Those who worry about odors or insects can keep the pail or scrap bag in the freezer or refrigerator. Other alternatives include storing scraps in Tupperware or bins with charcoal filters.

Residents can toss a wide range of materials that qualify as “food scraps” into their green carts: from apple and banana peels to meats, bones, coffee grounds and even greasy pizza boxes and used paper napkins. A user’s guide was distributed along with the countertop caddy, and is also posted on the county website.

What goes into the green yard waste carts (via Arlington County)

“The initiative marks another milestone in Arlington’s commitment to sustainability, diverting organic waste from incineration with regular trash,” the county said. “The compost generated will find its way into Arlington parks and community gardens and eventually individual yards, just as residents can pick up and order mulch for delivery from the County.”

Arlington is providing the service as part of its goal to divert 90% of waste from landfills and incinerators by 2038.

The county encourages residents who don’t receive weekly curbside collection to drop off their scraps at the Arlington County Trades Center in Shirlington (2700 S. Taylor Street), the Columbia Pike Farmers Market on Sundays, or MOM’s Organic Market (1901 N. Veitch Street). Residents who don’t get the county’s curbside collection service — which serves mostly single-family homes — can also email [email protected] for tips.

The new food scraps collection has even attracted entrepreneurs who are anticipating a stinky problem that they can solve.

Clarendon-based Bright Bins, a recently-launched waste bin cleaning business, is promoting its service as a way to “keep your bins clean and sanitized — and keep the rodents and pests away.”

“As opposed to using mild soap and a hose, our high-pressure 180-degree steam process sterilizes and deodorizes your organic bin, safeguarding it from attracting unpleasant visitors and ensuring you don’t dread the next time you open it,” said co-owner Ryan Miller.

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(Updated 4:25 p.m.) Local firefighters handle all sorts of hazards. Today, one such hazard was a flaming pile of garbage.

The rubish’s rapid oxidation happened around noon today in front of Gunston Middle School, near Arlington Ridge. The blazing bags of refuse were reportedly dumped by a trash truck after the driver noticed smoke and flames coming from the back.

“He dumped his load that was on fire,” a witness tells ARLnow. “He did the right thing. Saved his truck.”

The quick thinking spared the truck and a bigger conflagration, but it left big mess in the Gunston parking lot. Arlington and Alexandria firefighters worked to douse the combusting crud, leaving a soggy heap of waste to be cleaned up.

The trash fire, no doubt seen by a metaphor by some, was caught on camera by Washington Post media reporter Jeremy Barr.

Arlington County police blocked S. Lang Street, in front of the school, during the firefighting effort. A fire department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for additional information.

Later this afternoon, the county’s Department of Environmental Services shed some light on what likely caused the fire — rechargeable batteries tossed into a recycling bin — and provided some advice on how to properly recycle such batteries.

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(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Arlington County will start collecting residents’ food scraps on Labor Day.

Residents receiving county curbside collection services — mostly those in single-family homes and townhouses — will be able to toss unused food into their green yard waste bins and bring them to the curb on collection day, starting Monday, Sept. 6. Those scraps will be composted in Prince William County and returned to Arlington as soil.

“This is going to be for everybody who is a part of the household solid waste collection program,” said Erik Grabowsky, the chief of the Solid Waste Bureau of the Department of Environmental Services, during a community forum last week.

Arlington will be the first jurisdiction in Virginia to provide the service to all residential customers, he said.

The initiative is part of the county’s goal to divert 90% of resources from landfills and incinerators by 2038. It is also the last significant program to be implemented from the county’s 2004 solid waste management plan, Grabowsky said.

“There are many good reasons for adding a food scraps collection program,” he said, such as diverting useable waste from landfills and incinerators. Creating and using compost “will build healthier soils and also allow us to pay attention to the amount of food waste we are generating — which may change purchasing habits and may save us money.”

County household waste collection customers should have received a postcard previewing the service change and will soon receive an informational cart hanger, he said. The second of two virtual community forums will be held tomorrow and the county will be delivering “starter kits” with a two-gallon food caddy, 40 compostable bags and educational materials, throughout the month of August.

Acceptable food waste and food scraps include:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Meats, including bones, and old meat grease (sopped up with a paper towel)
  • Dairy products and eggshells
  • Breads
  • Coffee grounds, paper coffee liners and tea leaves (but not tea bags)

Residents should still put disposable containers and other products marketed as “compostable” in the trash.

“A lot of the materials have plastic liners,” said Adam Riedel, a county environmental management specialist. “We want to ensure the highest quality product, which means keeping out those contaminants.”

That could change if the federal government issues stricter regulations for creating and marketing disposable products as “compostable,” he said.

Arlington County will deliver these food scrap pails to residents (Courtesy Arlington County)

DES recommends keeping the pail, lined with a compostable bag, on a kitchen counter. Just before one’s weekly trash pickup time the food scraps should be bagged, put in the green cart and rolled out for collection.

Riedel said he keeps his pail on the counter and he notices no odor, but for those who are worried, he suggested keeping the pail or scrap bag in the freezer or refrigerator.

Grabowsky said he does not envision proper disposal requiring much enforcement.

“People generally comply with rules and regulations,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to have a contamination problem. If we do, we’re going to have to start having more aggressive action.”

The scraps will be converted into nutrient-dense soil at Freestate Farms in nearby Prince William County, per a new agreement approved by the County Board in February. The facility is run via a public-private partnership between Prince William County and the private corporation.

Read More

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(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) If hazardous materials and old electronics have been piling up around your Arlington home, help is on the way.

Arlington County is relaunching its biannual Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE) after an extended pandemic hiatus. The event is scheduled to return on Saturday, May 22, from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at 1425 N. Quincy Street, across from Washington-Liberty High School

The twice-yearly event usually allows residents to dispose of their hazardous household materials, electronics, and large metal objects — though metal is out this go-round.

“They won’t be taking bikes and big/small metal things, from ducts to frying pans,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin. “Maybe by the fall.”

(An appointment-only drop-off at the Earth Products Yard near Shirlington remains an option for smaller metal scrap.)

E-CARE is only available for personal use — businesses and commercial waste should be disposed of elsewhere. Residents are also encouraged to combine their scrap to reduce total trips.

Accepted materials listed on the County website include:

  • 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

There are some limits, however, so be sure to leave your spare plutonium and uranium at home.

  • Asbestos
  • Explosives and ammunition
  • Freon
  • Medical wastes
  • Prescription medications
  • Radioactive materials
  • Smoke detectors

Electronics can be collected curbside on weekdays by special request submitted online, and can also be dropped off at the Electronic Collection and Recycling Center at Water Pollution Control Plant Gate 3 (531 31st Street S.).

Photo via Arlington County

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Arlington County will be sending its yard waste and food scraps to Prince William County.

At Saturday’s County Board meeting, the board approved a new agreement to send organic compost to a new state-of-the-art composting facility in Prince William County.

Until November last year, the county was sending compost to a Loudoun County facility but that facility has since ceased operations.

Back in 2016, Arlington County began year-round residential curbside collection of organic material like grass clippings, leaves, and yard trimmings.

Arlington County provides year-round residential curbside collection of organic material, such as grass clippings, leaves, and yard trimmings. Through the winter — November to March — the material is composted at the Earth Products Recycling Yard (EPRY) at the Arlington County Trades Center in Shirlington.

However, that changes in the spring due to EPRY’s inability to compost grass clippings as well as space limitations related to residents mowing their lawn more often in the spring and summer.

As a result, from April to October the county sends its organic material to a third-party outside of the county for processing.

And starting this year, that material will be going to Freestate Farms in nearby Prince William County. The facility is run via a public-private partnership between Prince William County and the private corporation.

Beyond yard waste, the Prince William County facility also has the ability to compost “mixed organics,” i.e. food waste. County Manager Mark Schwarz’s proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget includes about $300,000 to add food scraps to the list of items that can be placed in the green organics bin.

If approved, the food scrap collection would begin in September, according to Schwartz’s budget.

In the meantime, the county’s current organics collection is set to start being trucked to Prince William County on April 1. The agreement does come with a price, however.

The Prince William facility is charging more than the Loudoun County facility, from $32 a ton for yard waste to the new rate of $36 a ton. For mixed organics, the rate is even higher, at $38 a ton. The staff report says these rate increases should be “almost or entirely offset” by other savings in the waste collection budget and will not result in Arlington households having to absorb the rate increase.

In fact, according to the proposed budget, there actually would be a slight rate decrease in the solid waste rate for households. Currently, households are paying an annual rate of $319.03. If the budget passes as is, even with the addition of mixed organics collection, residents will pay $318.61.

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Morning Notes

Board Advertises Property Tax Rates — “The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to advertise no increase in the Calendar Year 2021 base real estate property tax rate, citing the toll the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is taking on residents. The Board also voted to advertise a proposed Stormwater tax rate of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed real property value to fund the full cost of operations and planned capital improvements to the County’s stormwater infrastructure and flood mitigation… The estimated annual impact for the average household with an assessed home value of $724,400 is $123.” [Arlington County]

Snow Falling in ArlingtonUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — Snow is falling in Arlington, which is just outside of a newly-expanded expanded Winter Weather Advisory. Be careful out there! [Twitter]

Business Owners Talk About Burglaries — “Metry describes the Bluemont neighborhood where his business was burglarized as safe. He doesn’t understand why his business was targeted. ‘The whole register, the iPad, the square scan, all of this was missing,’ Metry said. Surveillance footage captured at neighboring restaurant La Union shows the burglars wearing dark clothing, hoodies, masks and gloves. Jose Zelaya has owned the Mexican restaurant La Union for 21 years. Aside from a random car break-in, he said he’s never experienced any crime like this.” [WUSA 9]

St. Patrick’s Pie at Clarendon Pizzeria — “Colony Grill, Clarendon’s new family-friendly tavern, known for its gracious hospitality and famous ‘hot oil’ bar-style pizzas, will serve a special corned beef & cabbage “Bar Pie”… [f]rom Friday, March 12 through Wednesday, March 17.” [Press Release]

Reminder: Trash Collection Delayed a Day — Due to ice and snow last week, Friday’s residential waste collection will be completed today, shifting this week’s collection schedule by one day. [ARLnow]

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Ice and snow has prompted another day without residential waste collection in Arlington, and that will have a ripple effect for residents next week.

“Due to icy road conditions and crew safety concerns, there will be no trash/recycling/yard waste curbside collection today,” Arlington County said this morning.

As a result of the delays, the trash collection schedule for next week will shift back by a day.

“Thursday’s route will now be completed on Saturday, 2/20,” the county said. “Friday’s route will be completed on Monday, 2/22, which will shift next week’s collection schedule by one day next week… Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.”

The county’s collection service serves mostly single-family homes; apartments and condos are served by private haulers.

Table via Arlington County

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