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
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.
Last year, the county approved moving to year-round yard waste collection, which would require Arlington residents to put leaves, branches and grass in new, green tubs to be collected every week alongside trash and recycling.
The yard waste would have increased the county’s recycling rate by 13 percent, then-Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said.
The county was forced to put the program on hold last June when, after awarding an all-in-one waste collection contract to American Disposal, the county’s former waste contractors, Bates Trucking and KMG Solutions, sued over the bid process, claiming “cronyism.”
The lawsuit from KMG was withdrawn last November, according to court records, and Bates’ suit was withdrawn in January. Neither the county attorney nor Bates Trucking have returned requests for comment on the lawsuits.
Once the lawsuits had been filed, the county canceled its contract with American Disposal and instituted an emergency contract without year-round yard waste collection, charging homeowners $271 per year for waste collection — cheaper than the previous fees when Bates and KMG were providing services.
During budget talks this year, according to county Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter, the year-round yard waste question is back on the table.
“Arlington County will finalize a new contract this spring for refuse and recycling services to single-family, duplex and townhouse properties,” Baxter told ARLnow.com in an email. “The County Board will consider whether year-round yard waste will be added to the other waste collection services during its annual budget process.”
The annual fee for homeowners has not yet been determined, Baxter said, nor has the fate of the green cans residents were supposed to receive last year. The County Board will adopt its FY 2016 budget later this month.
Red Top Development Deal Struck — A potential deal to redevelop Red Top Cab’s property in Clarendon, which we first reported in September, is closer to becoming reality. The Shooshan Company has reportedly entered a purchase agreement with Red Top that would build three residential properties with 584 units on the 3.44 acre site. [Washington Business Journal]
Spring Yard Waste Collection — Arlington County’s spring yard waste collection is set to start Monday and run through April 24. For homeowners, the collection will take place the next business day after their trash collection. [Patch]
APS ‘Traveling Trolley’ Wins Award — Arlington Public Schools has won a national award for its Traveling Trolley summer reading program . The trolley helps close the student achievement gap, providing “an effective way for low income families to gain access to printed text by providing free transportation to their neighborhood branch of the Arlington Public Library,” according to APS. [Arlington Public Schools]
New Va. Breastfeeding Law — A new law signed by Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe allows mothers to legally breastfeed in public, including in privately-owned buildings and businesses. The law will take effect July 1. [WUSA 9 – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
Now that the Christmas season is over, Arlington is once again offering residents a chance to turn their trees into mulch.
Starting Monday, Jan. 5, those with curbside trash collection can set their coniferous trees on the curb next to their trash can to be picked up. The trees will be picked up on the regular trash day until Jan. 16, after which they will still be picked up, just not recycled.
All trees must be cleared of lights, ornaments and all other decorations, as well as taken out of their stands, before being placed on the curb by 6:00 a.m. on trash day.
Those without curbside trash pickup can call (703) 228-6570 to schedule an appointment to bring their trees to the Solid Waste Bureau, along with proof or Arlington residence.
The trees will be recycled and turned into mulch, which is available for free for Arlington residents.
Bates Trucking — which was contracted for all of the county’s curbside recycling pickup and half of its trash pickup until the contract expired yesterday — is in the process of suing the county to prevent it from awarding all of its waste pickup to American Disposal. KMG Hauling, which also sued the county last month, handled the other half of the county’s trash collection.
The county has delayed its recently-approved year-round yard waste pickup program in light of the lawsuit. It canceled its one-year contract with American Disposal, but awarded the company an emergency services contract, for garbage and recycling pickup only, which took effect today.
Bates claims that its proposed contract was the best value and would have saved taxpayers money.
According to a Bates Trucking press release, the county’s now-canceled collection contract with American Disposal would have cost $15 million more over a period of 9 years than that offered by Bates, thanks in large part to Bates offering $9.45 million worth of free recycling processing.
Despite the unsubstantiated claim of “cronyism” in the press release, Bates said its lawsuit has merit and it hopes to continue serving Arlington residents.
“Our protest is not sour grapes or frivolous,” Bates Trucking President Bruce Bates said in the release. “Both incumbent companies are long time vendors for the residents of Arlington County. We have some real concerns over the practices that are being used to ‘usher in’ American Disposal Services, who has higher prices and less experience. Both Bates and KMG are local firms that have provided outstanding service to the residents of Arlington County. Bates wants to understand why we are being bullied and pushed out of the back door.”
The county has declined comment on Bates’ release or lawsuit. It did, however, release the terms of its emergency contract with American, which will reduce Arlington residents’ yearly solid waste disposal costs from $307.04 to $271.04 per year, until a full contract has been re-bid and approved. The Arlington County Board will vote at its meeting this month to reduce the solid waste allocation for FY 2015 by more than $1.1 million as a result.
According to Bates Chief Business Development Officer Willie Wainer, Bates has requested an injunction against the emergency contract, saying the county never put it out to bid as required by law.
“The county had the option, which was the most logical, to keep us in place since we knew the routes and knew the customers until they put a new bid or [request for proposals] on the street,” Wainer told ARLnow.com, “but they decided not to do so and gave American an emergency contract.”
Bates has been conducting trash and recycling pickup in Arlington for 17 years, Wainer said. It expects to put in another bid when Arlington re-issues the request for year-round collection. One anonymous ARLnow.com reader, in the comment section of the initial story on the lawsuit, says he was pleased with the former waste collection service.
“I can say without hesitation that the present garbage removal contractor does a fantastic job and I have to give them 100% marks in any assessment,” said “Bob,” who claims to be a Donaldson Run resident. “The county needs to issue a clarification as to why they have decided to change the garbage removal contractor and what cost competitive procurement process has been followed in selecting the new one.”
Wainer expects the injunction request to be heard in Arlington Circuit Court, where Bates and KMG filed their initial suits, within two weeks.
Photo via KMG Hauling
Arlington County will not roll out year-round yard waste collection next month as it had planned because it is being sued.
KMG Hauling and Bates Trucking have filed separate lawsuits against the county in Arlington Circuit Court “over denial of contract,” according to county spokeswoman Mary Curtius. Bates filed its lawsuit June 3 and KMG filed its own on June 18, according to court records, and both are scheduled for a pretrial motion hearing tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.
The county announced today that the delivery of green yard waste cans, which was expected in August or September, has been postponed, as has the ban on placing yard waste in plastic bags on the curb. Trash and recycling pickup service will continue uninterrupted.
“We regret any inconvenience caused by the delay in rolling out this new service,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. “The County is working hard to resolve the contractual issues with our residents in mind. We are committed to bringing year-round yard waste collection to our residents as soon as possible.”
The Arlington County Board passed an emergency ordinance yesterday reducing the quarterly waste fee for residents by $9 to account for the lack of yard waste service, the release said. The waste fees will be reinstated with yard waste collection.
The county awarded the contract for year-round yard waste collection to American Disposal, Curtius said. KMG and Bates already hold a current waste contract with the county, but Curtius said because of the pending litigation, the county could not confirm which services they currently perform.
Photo via KMG Hauling
Trash cans have been removed from the Iwo Jima memorial and a number of other National Park Service properties in the area, including Netherlands Carillon, Roosevelt Island, LBJ Memorial Grove, and the Roaches Run waterfowl sanctuary.
The trash cans were removed following the Boston Marathon bombing — when there were incorrect rumors of the bombs being placed in trash cans — but the timing is coincidental. The removal was actually done as part of a larger “Trash Free Park” campaign, and timed to coincide with Earth Day.
“It is a solid waste management strategy of removing trash receptacles from all or sections of a park,” NPS’ George Washington Memorial Parkway branch wrote in a fact sheet last month. “Visitors are expected to carry out the refuse they generate and dispose of it properly at home or at another appropriate destination.”
National and local parks around the country have been getting rid of trash cans as a way to save money and discourage visitors from generating trash at parks to begin with. According to NPS, benefits of a “trash free park” include:
- Fostering a partnership between visitors and the park by encouraging people to take an active role in maintaining a trash-free park.
- Encouraging people to adopt a carry in, carry out Leave No Trace principle.
- Encouraging people to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Reducing odors in the picnic area.
- Increasing visitor safety by reducing the number of stinging insects, rodents, and other wildlife in the picnic area.
- Allowing staff time and funds spent on trash collection to be applied to other projects and improvements within the park. (These projects include facility and grounds maintenance, and resource preservation.)
- Reducing the amount of litter in the park.
- Establishing a commitment to park sustainability and responsible park use that will carry on to future generations.
When Fairfax County considered going trash free at county parks in 2010, the annual savings was estimated at $1.8 million.
Not everybody thinks it’s a good idea, though. Some say it’s confusing visitors and resulting in trash being left on the ground, including one recent visitor to the Iwo Jima memorial.
“I watched a war veteran (as indicated by his baseball hat) look for a garbage can to place his empty coffee cup… not finding one he placed it next to another discarded coffee cup,” local resident Lindsey Paola said in an email to ARLnow.com.
Trash Collection Canceled — Trash collection in Arlington has been canceled today due to the snow storm. Trash collection is currently expected to resume tomorrow, with collection delayed one day for the rest of the week (Wednesday customers’ trash being collected on Thursday, etc.). “Please do not put your trash or recycling on the curb this Wednesday,” said the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services. “Wednesday collection routes are in the hilliest parts of the County and expose the collection crews and the public to the greatest safety risks in a snow event.”
School Boundary Meeting Canceled — A school boundary meeting scheduled for today has been canceled. Instead, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy will be holding a boundary town hall meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 11, at Williamsburg Middle School. APS, meanwhile, has made some minor tweaks to its boundary change plan, after hearing critical feedback from parents. [Arlington Public Schools, Patch]
Moran, Connolly Support Metrorail Extensions — Virginia Congressmen Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran have introduced a bill calling for a study of an extension of Metro’s Blue, Yellow and Orange lines to Potomac Mills, Fort Belvoir and Centreville respectively. “We need to look at solutions that take cars off the roads and provide viable transportation alternatives for our citizens,” Connolly said in a statement. [Rep. Gerry Connolly, DCist]
Green Party Seeks Housing Authority Referendum — The Arlington Green Party is trying to drum up support from the local faith community for its push for a new housing authority. The Greens are trying to collect 3,000 signatures to get a measure on the ballot that would establish a housing authority in Arlington County, with the goal of creating more affordable housing units. [Arlington Mercury]
Update at 5:55 p.m. — All Arlington Public Schools (except Barcroft Elementary) will open on time tomorrow (Wednesday). “Parents are asked to be patient as buses may need to work around road closures in some parts of the county, causing delays on some routes,” said school spokesman Frank Bellavia.
All county government offices, libraries, courts, community centers, and nature centers will also be open.
Roads are gradually being cleared, dark homes are lighting up and residents are attempting to return to a sense of normalcy following Superstorm Sandy.
Currently, Dominion’s outage map shows 14,645 Arlington customers without power. The company promises to have crews working around the clock until power is restored. It’s hoping to complete its restoration efforts by Thursday night.
The federal government will be open for business tomorrow, according to the Office of Personnel Management, which will mean increased traffic on neighborhood streets that are still littered with storm debris.
Metro has resumed bus and train service and is slowly getting all lines back up to normal operation. Trains are running on a Sunday schedule. ART buses also resumed service this afternoon on routes 41 and 51. There may be delays if there is debris in the roads along the routes.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reports that Reagan National Airport fared well and didn’t experience any damage or flooding. Most flights are still cancelled today but there are a few taking off and arriving. Travelers are urged to check with their airlines directly for information about flights before going to the airport. MWAA will provide updates via Twitter as more flights begin to take off.
Early voters can go to Courthouse Plaza until 7:00 p.m. for in-person absentee voting. For now, the Barcroft and Madison locations remain closed, but the county hopes they can open tomorrow in addition to the Courthouse location. More information about absentee voting can be found online.
Trash and recycling services, including brush and leaf collection, will resume Wednesday. Monday/Tuesday pickups have been rescheduled for Wednesday, and Wednesday/Thursday pickups have been rescheduled for Friday. Storm debris removal can be requested online or by calling 703-228-6570. The normal requirement for brush to be less than 18 inches in diameter will be waived.
The county notes that an additional 2,000 people signed up for the Arlington Alert system during the storm, bringing the number of total subscribers to more than 50,000. The system provides emergency information updates via email or text message. Anyone interested in receiving alerts during the storm cleanup and for future public safety events can sign up online.
All classes and activities have been canceled Monday at Arlington Public Schools in advance of the storm, which is now expected to drop 5 to 10 inches of rain and pack wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour between tonight and Tuesday.
Metro has suspended all rail, bus and MetroAccess service starting Monday. Service will remain suspended “until further notice.” ART bus service has also been suspended Monday.
Many flights departing out of and arriving at Reagan National Airport on Monday have been canceled, according to the airport’s Twitter account, although the airport itself will remain open.
Federal government offices will be closed Monday, and non-emergency employees are being granted excused absences.
Arlington courts, libraries, community centers and government offices will be closed Monday. Trash and recycling collection in Arlington has been suspended on Monday and Tuesday. Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan, meanwhile, has declared a state of emergency.
From a county press release:
County Manager Barbara Donnellan today signed a Declaration of Local Emergency for Arlington County in response to Hurricane Sandy. The County is activating its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to manage storm response. The hurricane is projected to impact the Arlington area with heavy rain and damaging winds from late Sunday night through Tuesday night.
This storm is expected to produce rainfall of between 5 and 10 inches in our area, which could cause localized flooding on area streets, low-lying areas, creeks and streams. The County expects significant tree damage, and residents, businesses and visitors should plan for widespread power outages as a result.
What Residents Can Do to Prepare
- Have flashlights and extra batteries, a battery-powered and/or hand-crank radio in case power goes out. Ensure mobile phones are fully charged. (And consider plugging in your old-fashioned land-line phone.)
- Have food that does not need refrigeration and one gallon of water per person per day. Other important items are a first aid kit, medication, and other supplies.
- Don’t forget your pets and others who may need special assistance, including elderly neighbors.
- With heavy winds expected, ensure outside items in yards and on decks and patios are secure.
- Clean out gutters, storm drains, etc. (keeping drains clear of trash, leaves and branches) so rainwaters can easily flow, reducing possible flooding and ponding. Also rake leaves to cut down on flying debris and prevent clogged storm drains.
- Have a communications plan. Make sure all family members understand who to call if you get separated.
- If you live in an area prone to flooding, be prepared to relocate your family and vehicle before flood waters have an impact. If you are driving and see a street that is flooded, turn around.
More details on the County website , including who to call after the storm, clean-up tips, handling home damage, and more. We will continue to update this page throughout the storm response; check back for updates or sign up for an RSS feed.
Emergency Winter Shelter Opening
The Emergency Winter Shelter (EWS) at Courthouse will open today, Sunday, Oct. 28, at 3pm and will stay open as long as needed (it normally opens Nov. 1). A-SPAN is conducting outreach to let the homeless population know this resource is available.
Key Phone Numbers
Write these down or print them out so you have then handy in case you lose power.
- Power Outages: Dominion Virginia Power, 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357)
- Natural Gas Emergencies: Washington Gas 703-750-1400 or 800-752-7520. If you smell gas, leave and call 9-1-1. Washington Gas Safety Page
- Trees Down : 703-228-6525
- Street Flooding, Water, Sewer and Storm-sewer: 703-228-6555 (emergency hotline)
(Note: During high rains, call volume is often greater than normal. Operators will respond to your call as soon as they can.)
- Traffic Signal Outages: 703-228-6511
Dominion Power Update
Dominion is currently expecting significant impact from the effects of Hurricane Sandy for much of their service territory. Their Northwest Regional Storm Center is regularly providing updates to government Emergency Operation Center (EOCs) in the region. Other news from Dominion:
- Dominion will open its Northwest Regional Storm Center at 6AM Monday October 29.
- 8,800 medical condition customers have been contacted via automated calling feature, in preparation of Hurricane Sandy, with the following message: This is an important message from Dominion. In advance of Hurricane Sandy, customers with medical needs should make preparations for extended outages. Participation in the medical needs program does not mean that you will be the first to have power restored. Please make an emergency plan for backup power or arrangements to relocate until power can be restored to your home. Thank you.
- They are working to secure additional resources to complement line, patrol and support teams.
- Additional tree crews are on hand to assist with restoration efforts.
Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency in Virginia on Friday.
Utilities and transit agencies are also preparing for the storm. Dominion says its crews, and mutual aid crews called in from out of state, are standing by to restore power following the storm. The company is warning of the potential for “prolonged power outages,” however.
“When customers lose their electric service during a major storm, their primary question is when their electricity will be restored,” said Dominion rep Rodney Blevins. “They expect our bucket trucks and line crews to be in the field as soon as the storm ends, or sooner, but strong winds may make working conditions too risky to proceed while the storm lingers.”
Although service will be suspended after Sunday night, WMATA says it has been testing drainage pumping stations and has been placing sandbags at Metro entrances in preparation for heavy rains.
“Customers are strongly encouraged to check wmata.com before traveling and to sign up for MetroAlerts to receive service information via email or text message,” the agency said via its web site. “During severe weather, customers are advised to travel only if absolutely necessary.”
Arlington County has compiled a list of phone numbers and storm clean-up tips residents can use to check on power outages, to report downed trees and wires, and to deal with water damage. Those seeking critical assistance — like food, shelter or other aid — can also call 2-1-1, a central hotline for human service agencies in the D.C. area. Tips for keeping pets safe in a storm are available online from FEMA.
Photo (top) courtesy @JoePraino
Christmas trees will be collected from Jan. 3-17 on normal trash collection days. All stands, lights and decorations should be removed, since the trees will be ground into mulch.
“Residents are reminded to place the tree on the curb no later than 6 am on your regular trash collection day,” the county said on its trash collection website. “Residents that do not have curbside recycling service, such as those living in townhouses, apartments, or condominiums, may also bring their Christmas trees to the Solid Waste Bureau during the Christmas tree collection season. Please call 703.228.6570 to schedule an appointment between 8 am – 3 pm, Monday through Friday.”
The Solid Waste Bureau is located at 4300 S. 29th Street.
Follow these safety tips from the Arlington County Fire Department to make sure your tree doesn’t become a fire hazard before your scheduled pickup or drop-off.
If it can’t be thrown out with the trash or picked up for normal recycling, chances are you’ll be able to get rid of it next month at Arlington’s “E-CARE” Environmental Collection and Recycling Event.
The biannual event is being held at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road) from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15.
Residents will be able to drop off various types of large or hazardous items, including small metal items, computers, televisions, cell phones, other electronics, fluorescent bulbs and tubes, paint products, fuels and petroleum products, lawn and garden chemicals, poisons, pesticides, automotive fluids, car care products, propane gas cylinders, photographic chemicals, swimming pool chemicals, household cleaners, mercury, flammable solvents, fire extinguishers and corrosive materials.
There will also be a collection of gently used clothes, shoes, microwaves, mattresses, bed frames, eyeglasses and old bicycles. Most items will be donated to poor residents of Honduras, while the bikes and eyeglasses will be sent to unspecified overseas destinations.
The only items that are specifically banned are explosives, ammunition, freon, radioactive materials, prescription drugs, medical waste and asbestos. Also, smoking is prohibited while on-site.
See more information on the Arlington County E-CARE web site.
Can-Scrubbers LLC recently started operating in Arlington, Falls Church and McLean. The company has a small, oddly-shaped blue truck that uses “high pressure hot water and highly effective degreasing cleaners” in an automated process to clean out filthy trash cans.
Can-Scrubbers says their process is “eco-friendly” since cleaning your own cans will likely “send contaminated waste material into the street and ultimately down storm drains and into our precious streams and rivers.” The company says it stores waste water in the truck, then filters it and sends it through the sanitary sewer. Also, the company says that its cleaning agents are biodegradable.
The service starts at $10 per month.
Trees will be picked up for recycling between Monday, Jan. 3 and Friday, Jan. 14. The county is asking residents to remove all ornaments, lights and stands, and to place the tree outside by 6:00 a.m. on their regular trash collection day. Do not place the tree in a plastic bag, say county officials.
Apartment, condo and townhouse dwellers who don’t have curbside garbage pickup can drop off the trees for recycling at the county’s Solid Waste Bureau (4300 South 29th Street) provided they show proof of Arlington residency.
Trees collected by the county will be ground down into wood mulch. Find out more information about tree collection here.