Newsletter
Collection truck (via Fairfax County)

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.

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Morning Notes

Tysons Mass Vaccine Site Reopens — After two days of canceled appointments due to snow, the Tysons Community Vaccination Center at Tysons Corner Center will resume regular operating hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are strongly encouraged. [VDH]

County Waste Collection Resumes Today — “Due to Solid Waste staff being re-assigned to snow clearing duty, we will collect Monday’s trash and recycling routes on Wednesday and will continue on a sliding schedule throughout Saturday.” [Fairfax County Public Works/Twitter]

Founders Row Lands Family-Friendly Restaurant — The team behind Rooster & Owl, an upscale American restaurant in D.C., will open a new, more casual spot called Ellie Bird in Falls Church City’s Founders Row development in late 2022. Planned dishes like seafood paella and grilled corn ravioli were inspired by the takeout offerings that Rooster & Owl created during the pandemic. [Washingtonian]

Palchik Makes History with NVTC — Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik will be the first Latina person to serve as vice chair for the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which advocates and coordinates funding for public transit across the region. Palchik and the rest of the commission’s appointed 2022 slate will be approved at a meeting tomorrow (Thursday). [NVTC]

Tysons IT Contractor Acquired — “Fairfax-based management consulting firm ICF International Inc. announced Monday that it had completed its acquisition of McLean-based IT federal contractor Creative Systems and Consulting. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.” [Virginia Business]

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Morning Notes

County Reduces COVID-19 Isolation Time — Following new CDC recommendations, the Fairfax County Health Department has cut the required isolation period for people infected with COVID-19 from 10 to five days, if the individual has no symptoms. People exposed to someone who tests positive no longer have to quarantine if they’re vaccinated. [FCHD]

Former FCPD Officer Convicted for Sexual Misconduct — “A former Fairfax County police officer has been convicted of sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old police cadet. John Grimes faced three charges of indecent liberties with a minor. He was found guilty of all counts on Monday.” [NBC4]

Vienna’s Tom Yum Thai Closes — “The restaurant informed customers in a Facebook post that it had closed on Sunday, Dec. 26. It had been open for seven years at 226 Maple Avenue W in Vienna. The management did not share a reason for the closure in the post.” [Patch]

County Waste Facilities to Change Hours — “The new year will usher in extended operating hours for residents to drop off their trash, recyclables, and various specialty wastes (e.g., used oil, old batteries, scrap metal) at the I-66 Transfer Station and the I-95 Landfill Complex. The new hours taking effect on January 1, 2022, are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekend hours, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., will remain unchanged at both facilities.” [DPWES]

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Morning Notes

How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree — The Town of Vienna will provide curbside collections of Christmas trees to all customers through Jan. 31. Fairfax County collections will be from Jan. 3-14. All lights, decorations, and stands should be removed prior to pickup. [Patch]

Virginia Time Capsule Possibly Found — “Workers removing chunks of granite that had once supported this city’s Robert E. Lee monument finally found what appears to be an elusive 1887 time capsule shortly before noon on Monday…This is the second time a capsule was discovered under the monument; a small lead box opened last week contained mementos of several men who designed the memorial.” [The Washington Post]

Churchill Student Makes Food Network Debut — The Food Network kicked off the 10th season of its reality show Kids Baking Champion yesterday (Monday). Among the 13 young contestants competing to win $25,000 is Churchill Road Elementary School fourth-grade student Finley Sheers, who started making cupcakes as a hobby during the pandemic. [Inside NoVA]

Vienna Rotary Club Hosts Unhoused Youth for Holidays — “Our youth had a fun-filled event hosted by Vienna Rotary Club to celebrate the holidays. They created pillows, decorated wooden arts and crafts, made jewelry, decorated cookies, took pictures at the photo booth and with Santa, and ate a lot of pizza and snacks!” [Second Story/Twitter]

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Fireworks (via Timothy Wolff/Unsplash)

The Fourth of July is coming up this weekend, and with Monday (July 5) as a designated federal holiday, many public facilities and services will be shaking up their schedules.

The Fairfax County Health Department announced today (Friday) that all of its COVID-19 vaccination clinics will be closed on Independence Day, but walk-in services will be available at the Fairfax County Government Center and the former Safeway at Mount Vernon Square in Alexandria on Saturday.

A vaccine site at Springfield Town Center will also be open for walk-ins on Monday.

Here are some other closures that county residents should keep in mind this holiday weekend:

Fairfax County Government

Fairfax County Courts

Town of Vienna

  • Town offices will be closed all day.
  • The Vienna Community Center will be closed.
  • The holiday will not affect waste collection. Residents scheduled for pick-up on Mondays can place their waste by the curb as normal, but no brush, bulk, or yard waste will be collected.

City of Falls Church

  • All city offices and services, including City Hall, the Mary Riley Styles Public Library, and the Falls Church Community Center, will be closed.

Public Schools

County Libraries, Recreation Centers, Parks

Public Transit

  • Fairfax Connector buses will operate on a Saturday service schedule on Monday. Check the Connector website for details on specific routes.
  • WMATA Metrorail service will operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday. Details on routes and closed stations can be found on the Metro website.
  • WMATA Metrobus will operate on a Saturday service schedule on Monday.

County Trash and Recycling

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Morning Notes

New Police Chief to Speak at Public Input Session — Community members will get their first chance to talk to new Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis at 7 p.m. on Thursday (May 6). Local civil rights groups have criticized Davis’s past record and a hiring process they say lacked transparency and public involvement, prompting the county board to issue a statement last night reaffirming its support for Davis. [Supervisor Rodney Lusk/Twitter]

COVID-19 Vaccine Could Soon Be Approved for Teens — “During a news briefing Friday, Virginia’s state vaccination coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said the CDC believes it is likely there will be an approved vaccine for ages 12 and up between mid-May to late May. Pfizer could be the first to get approval for ages 12 and up, followed by Moderna few weeks later, Avula said.” [Patch]

Cicadas Officially Emerge in Tysons — Brood X’s emergence began Monday night (May 3), when “more than 40 cicadas were spotted hanging off of branches just west of Tysons,” a periodical cicada expert told ABC7. The first cicada in the D.C. area appeared near Towson, Maryland, on April 19. [ABC7 News-WJLA]

Vienna Bans Plastic Bags for Yard Waste — The Vienna Town Council voted unanimously last week to eliminate the use of plastic bags for yard waste collection, following the lead of Fairfax County, which started enforcing its ban on April 19. Residents should instead utilize reusable containers or paper bags designed to hold leaves, grass clippings, and other yard waste. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Vienna Contractor to Take on Private Health Care Providers — “Eight-year-old Vienna IT company Nolij Consulting has helped develop an electronic health records system for the Pentagon that serves 41,000 active users — and now it’s looking to take that expertise to the private sector.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

Merrifield Fire Station Renovation Underway — “Renovation at Station 30, Merrifield, coming along nicely. Reno includes a 440 sq ft addition. Station remains totally operationally during this time w/trailer for personnel in back. Truck 430 temporarily at Station 34. Current estimated occupancy is first quarter of 2022.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]

Vienna Reminds Locals Not to Put Yard Waste in Plastic Bags — “Vienna residents, please be aware of this new rule. Place yard waste – that’s grass clippings, leaves, weeds, vines, and other such materials – loose in reusable containers or in paper bags made specifically for yard waste and available at hardware stores.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Northern Virginia Office Vacancy Tops 20% — “As a whole, per CBRE, Greater Washington posted 1.4 million square feet of negative absorption over the past quarter, compared to a more modest 129,713 square feet of positive absorption in the first quarter of 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Community Center Plans Environmental Action Event — “The McLean Community Center is hosting what it calls an ‘environmental action event’ for local residents on Saturday, April 17 from 9 a.m. to noon.” [Sun Gazette]

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Trash collectors in Fairfax County will not pick up leaves, grass clippings, and other yard waste stored in plastic bags when the collection season begins on Monday (Mar. 1).

After holding a public hearing, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 on Tuesday (Feb. 23) to officially prohibit the use of plastic bags for yard waste by amending its Solid Waste Management Ordinance, a move that supporters say is necessary to reduce pollution and make the county more environmentally friendly.

“To reverse climate catastrophe, each of us must make many small and large steps,” Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions Board Chair Eric Goplerud said when testifying at the public hearing. “Banning plastic bags to contain yard waste is a step that the Board of Supervisors can take to lead our community to care for our common home, the Earth.”

Fairfax County began transitioning away from using plastic bags for yard waste last year, encouraging residents to use compostable paper bags or reusable containers instead.

In an update to the board’s environmental committee on Oct. 27, county staff reported that about 51% of homes surveyed during the 2020 yard waste season were still utilizing plastic bags, but Fairfax County Director of Engineering and Environmental Compliance Eric Forbes says he is “hopeful and confident” that the bags can be eliminated after the past year of education and outreach.

Now that the ban has been approved, the county’s solid waste management program is encouraging private trash and recycling collection companies to notify their customers that waste in plastic bags will no longer be collected.

“We do not anticipate a hundred percent success rate in the beginning, but we will continue our outreach and collaboration with industry to help our community to reach compliance with the new requirements,” Forbes said.

Forbes acknowledged that compostable paper bags are slightly more expensive to buy than plastic bags. County staff found that paper bags designed to carry yard waste cost about 50 cents per bag, whereas plastic bags cost around 30 cents.

Yet, the overall cost of utilizing plastic may be greater, since the material is difficult to extract and can damage equipment during the composting process, pushing up costs for collectors and, by extension, customers, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says.

While paper bags are preferable to plastic, Forbes noted that residents can avoid the costs of yard waste removal altogether by managing it on-site with backyard composting or allowing grass clippings to decompose on their lawn, a practice known as grasscycling.

McKay says he got 75 emails on the proposed ban, with an even split between supporters and opponents, but he believes it is time for Fairfax County to join the rest of the D.C. region, where some jurisdictions have required paper bags or reusable containers for more than a decade.

“We ultimately just have to decide whether we think this is a good idea or not,” McKay said. “…I think clearly, based on the testimony that we’ve heard today, based on where everyone around the region is, and frankly, based on where the science is, this is something that we must do now to help with our environmental challenges.”

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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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

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(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Fairfax County is considering adopting an ordinance banning the use of plastic bags for yard waste and instead encouraging residents to transition toward greener alternatives.

Presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during its environmental committee meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 27), the proposed ordinance states:

Yard waste shall be set out in paper yard waste bags, reusable containers, other storage devices as approved by the Director, or bundled with string as instructed by the collection provider and shall not weigh more than fifty pounds. Yard waste shall not be placed in plastic bags.

The Board of Supervisors voted on Feb. 25 to begin phasing out the use of plastic bags by both customers of private companies contracted to collect yard waste and residents in the county’s solid waste collection areas.

County staff with the Solid Waste Management Program worked with community and private haulers to encourage customers to use compostable paper bags or reusable containers instead for this year’s yard waste season, which began in March and ends in December.

A survey of more than 5,500 homes in Fairfax County found that plastic bags were still utilized in 51% of yard waste set outs in the evaluated Census tracts. 31% of set outs were done with reusable containers, 11% with paper bags, 6% as an uncontained yard pile, and 1% with compostable plastic bags.

“It’s been a transition yard waste season, essentially, to help homeowners, and people that are generating yard waste that have properties get used to not being able to use plastic,” Fairfax County director of engineering and environmental compliance Eric Forbes said. “We didn’t have a ban. This yard waste season is really a transition year.”

Seven other jurisdictions in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area already discourage or prohibit the use of plastic bags for yard waste collection. Loudoun County, for example, has required paper bags or reusable containers since 2002.

Fairfax County’s current ordinance regulating yard waste collection only dictates that it be “set out in bags, reusable containers, or in piles as instructed by the company which will be collecting them.”

Fairfax County staff anticipate formally requesting a public hearing on the proposal to amend and readopt the ordinance in January 2021, with an actual hearing expected to take place in February. If everything goes according to schedule, the new ordinance will be implemented in March in time for the next yard waste season.

“In March of 2021, as long as the ordinance change is adopted, implementation of the new ordinance will begin, basically banning plastic bags from the yard waste recycling stream,” Forbes said.

Forbes says homeowners should prepare their yard waste first by grasscycling, then composting if they have enough space, and finally compiling the waste in a reusable container or paper bag for curbside collection.

“Grasscycling is actually cutting the grass back into the lawn or mulching your leaves back in the lawn,” Forbes said. “And then backyard composting would be the next best alternative for those residents that have the space.”

If neither grasscycling or composting is an option, yard waste can be placed in reusable containers or paper yard waste bags for curbside collection, which are available at the big box stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s or Walmart, he said.

Additional information on yard waste management can be found on Fairfax County’s Public Works and Environmental Services website.

Photo via Fairfax County government

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