Same-day deliveries have become increasingly popular, thanks to companies like Amazon and Uber Eats, but that convenience could come at a cost for local governments.
The Town of Vienna’s sanitation division operating budget — which includes collection workers, landfill fees for waste and recycling, and other costs — has remained around the same in recent fiscal years: $1.850 million in 2019, $1.925 million in 2020, and $1.871 million in 2021.
However, Vienna Town Council representative Steve Potter told the Virginia Mercury last month that the uptick in shipping has meant additional costs for governments due to the amount of nonrecyclable packaging as well as the need for personnel and facilities to recycle cardboard boxes and other materials.
Del. Mark Keam, whose district includes the Town of Vienna, and other state legislators tried to intervene with bills that would have required businesses to pay an environmental fee based on packaging, but the proposals failed to go forward in a House subcommittee.
Potter didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.
Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services shared a similar sentiment.
“It is intuitive that the increase in home delivery services over the past few years has had an impact on waste generation and composition,” department spokesperson Sharon North said in a statement.
Even if people want to recycle, there are still setbacks. Most of the plastic packaging in which customers get items isn’t recyclable in the region, according to Fairfax County.
While the pandemic shifted people away from workspaces, reducing commercial use, future annual reports from the state could provide a clearer look at the trash and recycling habits of residents and businesses.
A new store in Vienna will feature food without packaging, household products that don’t add to landfills, and much more.
Mala Persaud, who has lived in the town for over a decade, plans to unveil Trace — The Zero Waste Store to the public this October at 140 Church Street Northwest, part of her personal journey to embrace a lifestyle of seeking to eliminate non-recyclable and non-reusable products and packaging.
“People can actually see with their own eyes…how much trash we generated with the pandemic,” Persaud told Tysons Reporter. “This is a way to make it a little bit easier to make slightly different choices.”
She plans to have approximately 400 items at her store with bins for spices, bulk foods from rice to nuts and beans, local products such as honey and peanut butter, hygiene items such as soap and shampoo, and household cleaning items.
Trace joins a growing community of environmentally friendly stores that seek to provide alternatives to single-use packaging, which often ends up in landfills, the ocean, or incinerators that emit greenhouse gases.
Persaud committed to transitioning away from single-use packaging when she was on vacation in Belize in 2016 and saw plastic bottles and trash on a road, sensing that it could soon be washed into the ocean.
“The earth cannot re-absorb the plastic we’ve created,” her website says. “So we have to find a way to reduce how much we use. Zero Waste stores make it possible to re-use what we already have, thereby reducing the amount that ends up in landfills or in the ocean.”
Even Trace’s store sign is an opportunity for sustainability. Persaud is asking the town to allow changes for her building storefront so she can use more reusable and cost-effective materials, enabling any future tenants to simply replace lettering rather than having to make a completely new sign.
Her application is going before the Board of Architectural Review tomorrow (Thursday) for its 7:30 p.m. online meeting.
“When I leave…the next business owner is just going to be able to lift the letters off and get new ones printed, and it will cost a couple hundred dollars,” she said.
Persaud’s family has served as an example for her low-waste lifestyle, too: Her parents were surprised by all the packaging used in the U.S. when they immigrated from Guyana, and her grandmothers saw paper towels as a luxury, reusing them until it was no longer possible to do so.
Her 20-year-old son has also taken steps to reduce his waste footprint, such as avoiding plastic cutlery for takeout food.
Persaud has personally vetted the items that her store will sell, such as wooden spoons. She brings her own set with her to avoid creating unnecesary waste.
“It does become habit-forming,” Persaud said of adjusting to bringing her own packaging to a store. “And then when you see how much less trash you’re generating, it actually feels pretty good.”
Performed by the Wolf Trap Teaching Artists, the Field Trip Fridays program consists of interactive videos for children and accompanying handouts for their parents or teachers to use as educational tools.
“The hope is that children will find joy in the experience and develop a love of the performing arts that their parents/guardians will continue to foster,” Cate Bechtold, Wolf Trap’s director of internships and community programs, said.
Usually, Wolf Trap hosts thousands of school-aged children from across the D.C. area for in-person field trips at its Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods events, but in-person activities were suspended last spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bechtold says Wolf Trap had seven of its teaching artists pre-record performances of a variety of art forms in their own homes for the first Field Trip Friday series. The videos were then sent to teachers each week, along with the educational handouts.
“It is my hope that the Field Trip Friday videos open children’s eyes to new experiences, places, instruments, and art forms and in turn, instill a lifelong love of learning and the arts,” said Bechtold.
This year’s series began on April 16 with a rainforest-related dance by Natasha Mirny. Leading up to the Filene Center’s 50th Anniversary season this summer, there are four remaining Field Trip Friday performances:
- May 28 — The Recycling Pirates
- June 11 — How We Grow! (presented in English and Spanish)
- June 25 — The Language of Djembe
- July 9 — Cruising the Caribbean
“Making performing arts experiences accessible to the children and families in our community is essential to ensuring that the arts are valued and can thrive for generations to come,” Bechtold said. “We have the privilege of being part of an extremely diverse community and the arts are such a beautiful way for children to expand their knowledge on new topics and deepen their appreciation for the people and cultures that are sharing the information.”
Photo courtesy Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
Town of Vienna residents might soon be able to drop their compost off in the town instead of having to drive up to 10 miles to the nearest Fairfax County facility.
However, the town is still searching for a location and a vendor to pick up the compost, according to Christine Horner, a water quality engineer for Vienna who is spearheading the project.
The idea of a stand-alone composting drop-off site has been long mulled-over.
The Vienna Town Council approved funding for such a program on May 13, 2019 as part of the 2020 fiscal year budget, Horner says. Since then, the town has been looking for a place to set up a compost site.
“The project is in motion,” she said. “We are actively searching for an appropriate location.”
Once a location is set, Vienna will be ready “to get the facility installed and contract with a vendor for pick-up services,” Horner said.
Finding a location is top-of-mind for Councilmember Nisha Patel, who is campaigning to get reelected for a second term this May.
“We don’t have an area that is free of residents to compost,” Patel told Tysons Reporter. “It’s something we need to look out and see where we can encourage more composting.”
While Vienna staff look for an appropriate location in town, Patel encourages residents to use Fairfax County’s composting drop-off at the I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Road) in Fairfax and the I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Road) in Lorton. Those locations are open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
“These programs provide a similar service but are separate initiatives,” Horner said in an email. “The Fairfax Composting Drop Off location is currently available for Vienna residents.”
The county sites accept a wide range of goods for composting, including food — meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, fruits and grains — along with flowers, uncoated paper bags, towels and plates, compostable flatware, flowers, coffee grounds and tea bags. Scraps and paper goods can be collected in kitchen pails, secured in compostable bags, and tossed into the green bins.
Image via Fairfax County
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has endorsed county efforts to expand food scrap drop-offs to more farmers markets and evaluate a possible curbside collection pilot program.
Such collection opportunities would mark a step toward the county’s ambitious goal of making schools and government operations zero waste by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2040.
The board asked the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services last summer to research and report options for bringing an internal compost pilot — an employee-led food scrap recycling program called the Fairfax Employees for Environmental Excellence — to the public.
Fairfax County Director of Engineering and Environment Compliance Eric Forbes told the board during its environmental committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday) that DPWES has “a number of pilot programs” and the county “has been discussing working toward organics diversion for quite a while.”
Food scraps, which can be composted and converted into nutrient-dense soil, make up 30% of what gets thrown away in the county. Diverting this potential resource represents “the next rung on the ladder for our community,” Forbes said.
The county unveiled composting drop-off sites at the I-95 Landfill Complex & I-66 Transfer Station in November. He said these sites have rescued about 4,500 pounds of food scraps so far. People can also bring food scraps to farmers’ markets or hire one of four vendors in the county that offer curbside organics collection services.
In the near future, the county is looking to expand collection opportunities at farmers’ markets run by the Fairfax County Park Authority, FRESHFARM, and Central Farm Markets. These three organizations have expressed interested in working with the county, according to Forbes.
The county is also mulling over a curbside collection program, which would let residents mingle food scraps and yard waste in their green bins. Through an inter-county agreement, the food scraps could be taken to a facility in Prince William County.
“I like the idea of regional players taking the responsibility,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “I appreciate Prince William stepping up to build their own food scrap recycling.”
Still, Braddock District Supervisor James R. Walkinshaw told Forbes the county should “aggressively” promote backyard composting. He said doing so is especially important if the county finds that a curbside collection program would increase emissions.
“I want to make sure we do that analysis before moving forward with expansion of curbside,” he said.
Likewise, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said he appreciates the pilot programs and partnerships, but there needs to be more communication with the “average Joe homeowner.”
Forbes said his staff is looking to purchase electric vehicles for trash collection. As for educational opportunities, he said the county publishes lots of educational material and presents ways to eliminate food waste at homeowners’ association meetings.
Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik encouraged the county to look for year-round and seasonal farmers’ markets near apartment buildings.
“I want to make sure we are looking at equity through this issue,” she said. “Families will be happy to participate as long as we look at some of the barriers that exist.”
Photo via Seth Cottle on Unsplash
As the holiday season comes to a close and the new year approaches, it may be time to throw out your old Christmas trees and greenery.
For most Fairfax County residents, live Christmas trees that are less than eight feet tall will be collected curbside in single-family and townhouse communities on regular trash collection days between Jan. 11 and 22.
Residents may schedule a brush pickup for a tree removal after Jan. 22.
Fairfax County residents can also drop off their trees at the I-66 Transfer Station or the I-95 Landfill Complex. There is a $7 recycling fee per tree at the recycling centers, and all decorations and stands must be separated before disposing of trees.
The Town of Vienna will collect trees and brush on regularly scheduled collection days through January. Decorations, tinsel, ornaments, and other trimming should be removed from the trees before setting them out for collection. Trees should also not be bagged.
The City of Falls Church will collects Christmas trees free of charge on Wednesdays throughout January and February. The city advises placing trees at the curb within the first two weeks of January “to ensure speedy collection.”
Plastic bags, rope, and all decorations, including tinsel, should be removed.
For people looking for alternatives to disposing of their holiday greenery, the National Christmas Tree Association provides some other options:
- Soil erosion barriers: Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially for lake and river shoreline stabilization and river delta sedimentation management.
- Fish feeders: Sunk into private fish ponds, trees make an excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
- Bird feeders: Place the Christmas tree in the garden or backyard and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter. (Make sure all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel strands are removed). Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper.
- Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden.
- Paths for hiking trails: Some counties use shredded trees as a free, renewable and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of hikers.
- Living, rooted trees: Get a rooted (ball and burlap or containerized) tree and plant it in your yard. (It’s a good idea to dig the hole in the late fall while the soil is still soft, then plant the tree into that hole immediately after Christmas.) Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
The City of Falls Church’s recycling center is closed today (Tuesday) to accommodate repairs to an underground pipe.
The self-serve facility at 217 Gordon Street will be closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic throughout the day, though it is expected to reopen tomorrow.
The City recommends that residents looking to dispose of their recyclables today go to the Fairfax County I-66 Transfer Station on West Ox Road, which is open daily from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Glass can be recycled at various Purple Can locations throughout Fairfax County.
The Falls Church Recycling Center is typically open to drive-in vehicles from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and to pedestrians from dawn to dusk on Mondays through Sundays. It accepts certain kinds of clothing and textiles, glass bottles and jars, scrap metal, cardboard, and mixed paper and plastic products.
Photo via City of Falls Church
The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.
We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!
Tuesday (Sept. 29)
- Preschool Story Time (Online) — 10:30-11 a.m. — Mary Riley Styles Public Library will go live with virtual songs, stories, and rhythms on its Facebook page.
Thursday (Oct. 1)
- Preschool Story Time (Online) — 10:30-11 a.m. — Mary Riley Styles Public Library will go live with virtual songs, stories, and rhythms on its Facebook page.
- New Yorker Discussion Group (Online) — 2-3 p.m. — The New Yorker Discussion Group meets on the first Thursday of every month. Discussing The Legal Fight Awaiting Us After the Election by Jeffrey Toobin from The New Yorker magazine. Email Pete Sullivan, [email protected], to request the Zoom link.
Friday (Oct. 2)
- Meet the Mayor — 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street NE) — Meet and chat with Mayor Linda Colbert on the topic of your choosing, the website said.
- Sunset Cinema: Remember the Titans (Reservation Required) — 7:45 p.m. at Cherry Hill Park (312 Park Avenue) — Sunset Cinema returns with the showing of “Remember the Titans.” This event is limited to 20 families in a reservation system, the website said. To register, use this website.
Saturday (Oct. 3)
- Falls Church Farmers Market — 8 a.m.-12 p.m. at City Hall Parking Lot (300 Park Avenue) — Enjoy fresh, local produce, meat, dairy, flowers & plants, honey, music, and so much more at the Falls Church Farmers Market, the website said.
- Vienna Farmers Market — 8 a.m.-12 p.m. at Vienna Community Center Parking Lot (120 Cherry Street SE ) — Sponsored by the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna, the Vienna Farmers Market features approximately 30 vendors from across the region offering locally sourced fruits, vegetables, and homemade eats, the website said.
- Recycling Extravaganza (City of Falls Church residents only) — 9 a.m to 2 p.m. at Recycling Center (217 Gordon Road) — Recycle electronics, computers, eye glasses, bikes, clothing, textiles, batteries and more. Shred up to three boxes of documents. And, properly dispose of consumer products that are either toxic, ignitable, corrosive, or reactive, the website said. A list of recyclables that will be accepted can be found on this website.
- McLeans 5K (Online) — Hosted by McLean Community Center with the support of event sponsors Century 21 New Millennium and The Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce, this year’s McLean 5k is going virtual, the website said. Registration ends Saturday (Oct. 3). To register use this website.
Photo via McLean Community Center
Updated 3:15 p.m. — The article previously said it was Supervisor Lusk instead of Storck.
Inspired by nearby jurisdictions’ efforts, Fairfax County officials want to expand its compost pilot to benefit residents.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck shared during the Environmental Committee meeting yesterday that the county staff is pushing for new ideas to reuse compost.
“Arlington, D.C., Montgomery — a lot of them are already doing this kind of thing,” Storck said. “This is a limited pilot.”
According to county documents, Storck would ask the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) to research and report back on options to bring the county’s internal compost pilot to the public.
Some preliminary ideas include placing “green” compost bins next to the purple bins for glass recycling, collecting compost at farmers markets and school sites and providing compost materials at the I-95 Landfill Complex & I-66 Transfer Station, according to a county document.
Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said that he wants the county to share more information about backyard composting.
“The ideal scenario would be that all of us in the county who have a backyard in which to compost would do that there rather than getting in their car and transporting it somewhere else,” Walkinshaw said, adding that people who live in apartments or don’t have backyards would benefit from the compost bins.
“I’d be concerned about having an unstaffed location for things that could collect that become then a dump site,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said.
Gross noted the glass recycling bins are regularly staffed: “So far with our purple cans, it’s been great.”
Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said she supports the pilot idea and agrees with her fellow supervisors that the county should look into staffing and education around the pilot program.
Storck said he plans to bring forward a board matter next week with green initiatives that will include the compost bins.
Photo via Seth Cottle/Unsplash
The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on glass recycling in Fairfax County. Now, officials are resuming the glass recycling service, also known as the Purple Can Club.
The collection of glass dropped off at purple, glass-only containers resumes on Monday, May 11, according to the county’s website.
The county suspended glass recycling at the purple bins in mid-March, and containers are currently being reset at locations throughout the county.
The Tysons area has several bins.
The Vienna bin is located at 431 Mill Street NE. Another bin is located at the Dolley Madison Library (1244 Oak Ridge Ave) in McLean. A third is at the Falls Church Recycling Center (217 Gordon Road).
Residents can also bring glass containers at the I-66 transfer station and the I-95 landfill complex.
Free mulch service also resumed on Saturday, May 2.
Photo via City of Falls Church