Year-round yard trimmings collection service has been in place since March 2016 and currently is limited to materials such as grass clippings, cut flowers, brush, hedge trimmings and leaves.
The year-round program has been very successful – so much so that the County is now considering the addition of leftover food scraps including fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy. Food scraps will be able to be co-collected with yard trimmings and will be able to be placed into the green cart loose or bagged in either paper bags or compostable bags.
The implementation of a food scraps collection program provides the platform to increase awareness in each of our roles in reducing food waste and promoting healthy soils. Educational efforts would focus on preventing food waste, which could save many households money. Other benefits include, learning to make better use of leftovers, minimizing spoilage by storing refrigerated and perishable items properly, and most importantly, that each of us has a direct role in reducing food waste both inside and outside the home.
According to the EPA, some of the many benefits of reducing wasted food include:
- Saves money from buying less food.
- Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
- Conserves energy and resources, preventing pollution involved in the growing, manufacturing, transporting, and selling food (not to mention hauling the food waste and then landfilling it).
- Supports your community by providing donated untouched food that would have otherwise gone to waste to those who might not have a steady food supply.
Food Waste Hierarchy
The food waste hierarchy below identifies food management practices from most preferred to least preferred. Through the food scraps collection program and your help, Arlington could fully implement the Food Recovery Hierarchy. Our food scraps collection efforts would focus on three areas: consumer education, waste reduction and diversion, and sustainable material management (composting).
Arlington’s Zero Waste Goal
This effort is in support of the County’s zero waste goal of diverting up to 90% of our waste from incineration by 2038. Currently, food scraps make up over 20% of the residential waste stream according to our internal quarterly waste audits. By implementing a food scrap collection program, residents would increase the County’s recycling rate, reduce the amount of County trash incinerated, create soil amendments and depending on individual actions, save money, reduce food waste, and reduce GHG emissions*. This program is also consistent and supported by the County’s overall Solid Waste Management Plan submitted and approved by the Va. DEQ.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How does organics recycling work?
- Collect food scraps using your kitchen caddy or any bucket in your kitchen. Line your collection containers with a paper bag or compostable bag to help keep it clean. Compostable bags are available at local retailers. Plastic bags are not accepted.
- Empty your bagged organics into your green cart.
- Set out your green organics cart on the curb on your trash collection day.
- Would I have to pay more for this new service?
The annual cost to add food scraps collection would be an increase of less than $12 per year to the Household Solid Waste Rate (HSWR). This is to cover the costs of collection and processing of the organic materials.
- When would the program begin?
The food scraps collection program would tentatively begin the second half of 2021.
- What is the benefit of this new service?
If implemented, a food scraps collection program would provide the platform to increase awareness in each of our roles in reducing food waste and promoting healthy soils. Benefits include, learning to make better use of leftovers, minimizing spoilage by storing refrigerated and perishable items properly, and most importantly, that each of us has a direct role in reducing food waste both inside and outside the home. The program would also help to divert food waste from being incinerated to being composted, helping to increase Arlington’s recycling rate.
- What materials are accepted?
Food waste, or food scraps, will include vegetables, fruits, meats (including bones), bread, poultry, etc. – basically anything that we consume.
- What about odors and rodents?
Residents would be required to manage their food scraps in the green cart as they do the black cart, which means ensuring that the lids are closed and bagging materials, if necessary. To minimize odors, remember to line your container with a biodegradable or paper bag to absorb liquid from food waste. Empty your container frequently and rinse it out occasionally.
- Why can’t I just put food scraps down the garbage disposal?
Recycling organic waste into compost is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than using a garbage disposal. Our Water Pollution Control plant requires energy and resources to process out solids, including food waste. Food waste can also overload septic systems and cause problems.
- How exactly will residents participate in the service?
Residents will be given a small container to collect food scraps in the kitchen. You will be able to place collected food scraps into your green organics carts along with your yard waste materials. The food scraps will be able to be placed into the carts loose, in paper bags, or compostable plastic bags.
- What will the caddy look like?
If implemented, Arlington County will distribute a 2-gallon kitchen caddy and 10 biodegradable bags to all residents. The dimensions would be 11.5” x 8.5” x 9.25”. The caddy will also come with a lid to help prevent odors. See the sample caddy image below.
- Will larger organics carts be offered?
Households that currently have a 32-gallon green organics cart will be able to upgrade to a 64-gallon cart. However, we don’t expect significant increases in the volume of green cart materials. Green cart tonnages will increase, but because food waste is very dense, the volume of organics collected should stay pretty level.
- What if I have more material than will fit in the cart?
Residents would be able to set out any food waste in personal containers. Personal containers should be no smaller than 20 gallons and no larger than 32 gallons. They must have secure fitting lids and can be made of metal or sturdy plastic. Make sure to also clearly label the container as food scraps. Filled personal containers would not be able to exceed the weight limit of 50 lbs. Food scraps in plastic bags will not be collected. Biodegradable bags are okay.
- Will the residential curbside collections change at all?
No, all green cart materials will continue to be collected on the same day as trash and recyclables. Residents will still need to adhere to set-out rules as detailed in Chapter 10 of Arlington County Code.
- Where would food waste material be taken to?
The materials would be delivered to a permitted composting facility.
- Where can I compost food waste currently?
Arlingtonians are able to deliver food waste to the Earth Recycling Yard at the Arlington County Trades Center from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Some of the farmer’s markets in Arlington also recycle food scraps.