2024-07-17 6:43 AM

An Earth Day Refresher on Recycling in The Little City

Earth Day is a perfect excuse for a refresher on the City’s recycling services.  Over 68 million tons of materials, accounting for one third of all solid waste, are recycled in the U.S. every year, primarily paper and cardboard (67 percent).  

Readers are likely familiar with the Wednesday pick-up schedule for trash and recycling in the City, however requirements for recycling vary greatly from area-to-area, and the consequences of recycling inappropriate materials can significantly undermine the program’s benefits.  

The City also offers a free Recycling Center, located at 217 Gordon Rd., open seven days per week from dawn to dusk to walk-up visitors (car traffic is limited to Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. — 3:30 p.m.).

Plastic bags and pizza boxes pose two of the greatest detriments to the recycling process.  “Plastic bags, whether they are shopping bags or trash bags, can cause the recycling sorting machine to break,” warns Susan Finarelli, Director of Communications and Public Information Officer for the City of Falls Church.  “If you are unable to reuse your plastic bags… ask your favorite grocery store if they offer plastic bag recycling.”  

In addition to adding another plastic bag to the mix, sorting machines need items to be loose to do their jobs, so never bag recyclables.  

Pizza boxes are typically saturated in grease, which makes them highly combustible, and not recyclable.  Recycling guidance says that the top of the box, or any portion that is free of grease, may still be included.  “Pizza boxes cannot be recycled.” confirmed Finarelli.

Glass cannot be recycled in curbside boxes.  It can, however, be dropped off in special purple bins at the City’s Recycling Center.

Other items that should never be recycled such as plastic bags, food wrappers, styrofoam, propane tanks, shredded paper, hangers, charging cords, cables, and hoses.  Most of these items should be thrown away, however plastic bags can often be recycled in designated containers at grocery stores.  Takeout containers, unless fully clean and marked specifically for recycling, should be thrown out. 

Items that should be taken to a landfill complex (such as the I-66 transfer station in Fairfax and the I-95 landfill complex in Lorton) include cellphones and other electronic devices, batteries, household hazardous waste and paint, cooking and motor oil, and scrap metal.

When in doubt on whether an item is recyclable, don’t just throw it in the bin and hope for the best (you could essentially be un-recycling something else)!  Instead, visit fallschurchva.gov/recycling and use the extremely easy and convenient Recycle Coach tool (also a downloadable app).

Though recycling is an important part of efforts to make our world and community a healthier, more sustainable place, readers should keep in mind that, of the three behaviors in the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” slogan (which is believed to have originated at the first Earth Day 1970), recycling is the final option; though recycling what we discard is a great habit, the planet-saving goals of Earth Day are best served by first consuming less and reusing when possible.  Also, please don’t try to recycle dirty diapers, which is apparently a real thing that’s been happening.

Happy Earth Day!

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