F.C. Recycling Center Overburdened by Cardboard During Pandemic

By Brian Indre

THE RECYCLING CENTER off Gordon Road in Falls Church appeared tame earlier this week, with bins full, but not busting at the seams. With bulk collections resuming yesterday, the worst may be behind the center. (Photo: News-Press)

The coronavirus pandemic and the shift to ordering just about everything online it has inspired has created an increasing amount of trash and recyclables that are being put out curbside and coming into the recycling center within the City of Falls Church.

Residential trash and recycling bins that line the road on pick up day can be seen more full than usual with the lids popped-up not being able to fully close. The Gordon Road recycling center is also being hit harder than usual, with cardboard left on the ground because the bins are full.

With a majority of residents stuck at home, there is more time to order things online, take on yard projects and DIY home improvements, or the clearing out of an attic or garage. And the trash collectors and recycling centers are feeling the brunt of this influx of waste. This uptick in materials being disposed of is the reflection of the change in social behavior during the lockdown phase of the pandemic.

“The volume of yard waste has increased, and there have been two instances of our contractor not being able to collect all materials in one day,” said Lonnie Marquetti, the solid waste program manager for the City of Falls Church. “In those cases, we have communicated through various channels that the collection trucks would return the next day to a particular neighborhood.”

The City has notified residents about trying to minimize waste during this period so that collectors and recycling center personnel can remain as safe as possible by avoiding possible contaminated items.

“We have added messaging to our daily Covid-19 updates and information on the FC website, and on our social media platforms,” Marquetti explains.
The recycling center on Gordon Road has seen a large influx of materials since the stay at home orders were issued, which has been mostly cardboard, Marquetti said. She also explains that the center has needed to be serviced more often or up to at least twice a week on Mondays and Fridays, and if needed on Wednesdays as well.

Marquetti wanted to bring to people’s attention that the rules have not changed at the recycling center, but wants people to follow the directions they’ve always gone by.

“The rules are posted on the fence at the recycling center, and two rules that I would like to mention that are constantly being ignored are breaking down boxes, and if the dumpster is full, please take the items back home with you and try again on another date,” Marquetti said.

“We have been noticing a lot of illegal dumping happening. I believe this is has to do with bulk collections currently being suspended due to Covid-19. However, bulk collections will resume next week, on June 3,” she said.

Marquetti said that leaving materials on the ground or overfilled containers jeopardizes the health and safety of the workers who attend to the facility.

“During this pandemic, and not knowing what are on the materials, we are putting our operations team at risk of getting sick. Not to mention the hours that it takes to clean up the recycling center,” Marquetti warned.