Recycling Program Requirements
Recycling Information for
Solid Waste Collectors, Property
Managers/Owners and Residents
A Fairfax County, Va., publication
Last updated November 2008
Table of Contents
Appendix A - Alternative Yard
Waste Recycling System Application Form
Appendix B - Municipal Solid Waste and Recycling Plan - Please call 703-324-5230, TTY 711 to request a copy.
Appendix C - Annual Recycling Rate Reporting Form - Please call 703-324-5230, TTY 711 to request the latest version.
Appendix D - Example of Required Signage for Use in Single-Stream Collection
To request this information in an alternate format, call the Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program at 703-324-5230, TTY 711.
Recycling is required at all residential properties, all nonresidential properties, and institutions (e.g., schools, prisons, hospitals, churches). This document, entitled the Recycling Program Requirements, is intended to explain Fairfax County’s recycling requirements contained in Chapter 109.1 of the Code of the County of Fairfax, VA and is applicable to each type of property and to solid waste collectors operating in the County.
These Recycling Program Requirements are organized as follows:
- Section 2: Recycling requirements for single-family homes and townhouses, summarizing the recycling requirements that apply to residents to these types of homes.
- Section 3: Recycling requirements for multifamily properties, which apply to owners/managers of and residents in these types of buildings.
- Section 4: Recycling requirements for nonresidential properties, summarizing the recycling requirements that apply to any businesses, institutions, and owners/managers of nonresidential properties.
- Section 5: Recycling requirements for solid waste collectors, summarizing the recycling requirements that apply to all solid waste collectors.
Enforcement of the Recycling Program Requirements
The requirements described in this document are derived from statutory authorities which apply to residents and commercial, industrial, and institutional establishments within or doing business in Fairfax County, and also any person or entity that collects, transports, disposes, or otherwise manages solid waste or recyclable materials in Fairfax County. This document is incorporated into Chapter 109.1 by reference, per Section 109.1-1-1 of the Codified Ordinances. In the event of discrepancy between this document and Chapter 109.1, the authority of Chapter 109.1 prevails. Chapter 109.1 and all other sections of the Fairfax County Code are available online.
Violation of any provision of the recycling requirements of Chapter 109.1 or this document is punishable by a civil penalty. Chapter 109.1 contains mechanisms that allow for resolution of violations and remove the financial benefits that could be gained from noncompliance. Penalties and other enforcement matters are described in Chapter 109.1 in Article 9.
Materials required to be source-separated
Residents of townhouses and single-family homes receiving curbside refuse and recycling collection are required to separate recyclables from trash (source-separate) so that they can be delivered to a recycling facility rather than a disposal facility. The following items are required to be source-separated from trash and placed in a separate container for delivery to a recycling facility:
- Container glass (bottles and jars);
- Metal food and beverage containers (cans and tins);
- Plastic bottles and jugs;
- Yard waste (on a seasonal basis);
- Scrap metal; and,
- Cardboard and mixed paper (junk mail, office paper, newspapers, magazines, etc.).
Solid waste collectors must provide recycling service for all of these materials and collect them separately from the trash at least once per week. An exception for curbside collection may be available for approved alternative yard waste recycling systems at townhouse communities, as described further in this section.
Residents should set out recyclable materials as directed by their collection companies. The materials should be set out (placed) at the curb line. Recyclables should be set out separately from refuse. No single item should weigh more than 50 pounds or measure more than 48 inches in length (except for cardboard under certain circumstances, see below). Collection of items that meet these weight and size limitations is required to be provided as a minimum level of service. Collection of items that exceed these weight and size limitations may be provided by collection companies, but is usually done at an additional cost. It is the responsibility of collection companies to inform customers how to set out materials for collection properly and this information must be distributed annually (see Section 5 of this document for details).
Cardboard must be set out properly for curbside recycling. Large pieces must be cut down or folded to 3 feet in length and 3 feet in width, unless the company collects recyclables using single-stream collection technology. If the collection company elects to utilize single-stream collection technology, the size and flattening limitations for cardboard do not apply and all cardboard, regardless of size or dimension, must be collected for recycling. It is the collection company’s responsibility to communicate to customers that cardboard recycling is required and how to place it at the curb properly for collection, dependent on the collection technique utilized. This is a minimum level of service.
- Occupants of single-family homes and townhouses must source-separate yard waste for recycling from March 1 to Dec. 24 of each year. Yard waste is comprised of leaves and grass and woody materials such as branches, sticks and twigs. From Dec. 25 through the end of February, the collector must still collect yard waste from the curb but is allowed to mix it with trash rather than collect it separately.
- Natural Christmas trees up to 8 feet in length must be collected for recycling if set out during the first two weeks in January.
Details about set out of brush, yard waste and Christmas
Yard waste means grass clippings, leaves, and brush arising from general homeowner maintenance. Yard waste also includes similar materials collected from nonresidential landscape maintenance, such as maintenance of streets, parks and recreational areas.
Brush means shrub and tree trimmings arising from: 1) general homeowner landscape maintenance, and 2) similar nonresidential landscape maintenance. Brush must be limited to individual pieces or bundles no greater than 50 pounds in weight, four feet in length, and no piece larger than six inches in diameter. Pieces larger than this are not required to be collected as a minimum level of service.
Yard waste does not include any materials arising from tree removal, land clearing, or development activities; therefore, collection companies are not required to collect materials arising from these activities as a portion of the minimum level of service. Collection companies may provide collection service for these materials but most likely charge an additional fee.
Collection companies are responsible for clearly communicating the level of service to their customers regarding any additional charges that the collection company may impose for the collection of materials arising from tree removal, land clearing, or development activities.
Natural Christmas trees must be collected from all single-family and townhouse residential customers as part of mandatory recycling. The minimum level of service for collection of Christmas trees is removal of any natural Christmas trees less than 8 feet in length set out during the first two weeks of January. This includes any community that has an approved alternative recycling system for yard waste, since Christmas trees are not defined as yard waste.
Alternative yard waste recycling
Townhouse communities often use contractors or employees to maintain common areas within the community. In this instance, yard waste from the community is managed separately from the refuse and other recyclables collected from residents. Alternative methods for managing yard waste may be approved if the townhouse community can demonstrate that yard waste from common areas will be legitimately recycled.
Townhouse communities with alternative methods for recycling yard waste from the community may apply (in writing) to the Deputy Director of the Solid Waste Management Program for written approval of the alternative method of yard waste recycling other than curbside collection. Application for approval of an alternative recycling system for yard waste can be made on forms provided by the Solid Waste Management Program and approvals are valid for a period of two years, after which they must be renewed. A copy of this form is provided in Appendix A. The written approval from the county must be maintained by the property manager/owner and a copy of the approval must be provided to the collection company for retention in its files.
Approval of alternative recycling systems for yard waste will only be made for townhouse communities where an alternative method for recycling yard waste can be demonstrated. Approval of alternative recycling systems for yard waste will not be made for mixed communities that include townhouses and single-family homes.
Any residential community that does not have an active approval for an alternative recycling system for yard waste and receives curbside refuse and recycling collection must recycle yard waste through collection at the curb from March 1 to Dec. 24 each year.
Recycling requirements for multifamily dwelling
Owners of all multifamily dwelling units (e.g., apartments and condominiums) must provide a system for their residents to recycle cardboard and mixed paper. In turn, solid waste collectors must offer recycling service for these materials and collect them at least once per week.
Owners of multifamily dwelling units built after July 1, 2007, must provide a system for their residents and tenants to recycle the following materials in addition to mixed paper and cardboard:
- Container glass (bottles and jars);
- Metal food and beverage containers (cans and tins);
- Plastic bottles and jugs; and
- Scrap metal (see note below).
Details on designing refuse and recycling collection areas are in Section 10-0300 of the Public Facilities Manual (PFM) administered by the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, Division of Land Development Services. This section of the PFM gives details on how recycling collection areas are to be included in all site plans for new buildings in Fairfax County. The PFM is available on the county website.
A note about recycling scrap metal - the primary source of scrap metal in multifamily dwellings is appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, stoves, etc. When the property management company replaces these items, they must be recycled. This can be accomplished by contracting with a collection company to remove them for recycling or by taking them to a scrap metal recycler or other appropriate method. In condominium communities, the property manager should provide information to residents about how to recycle their individual appliances as scrap metal. More information and support about recycling appliances is on the website or call 703-324-5230, TTY 711.
Annual notification to tenants about recycling
The owner or property manager of any multifamily dwelling unit must provide each unit with notification of how to use the community’s recycling system and must continue to provide notice on an annual basis and whenever a new occupant moves in.
Multifamily dwelling unit complexes must have a recycling
The owner of a multifamily dwelling unit must develop a Municipal Solid Waste Management and Recycling Plan and maintain the plan at the property for use by employees, occupants, and vendors. The purpose of the plan is to aid the property manager/owner in making decisions about how and where refuse and recycling will be collected from the building.
A form to assist property managers in complying with this requirement can be found in Appendix B of this document. The plan must be updated whenever there is a significant change to the property, including major construction, change of ownership or management, or change of solid waste and/or recycling vendor. At a minimum, the plan should be updated every five years. If a property manager wishes to create his/her own plan, detailed requirements of the plan are described in Section 109.1-3-2(a). The plan must be provided to the County within 30 days of written request and there are civil penalties for failure to maintain a Municipal Solid Waste Management and Recycling Plan.
All nonresidential properties must recycle mixed paper and
Chapter 109.1 requires all nonresidential establishments, including businesses, schools, and institutions, to provide a recycling system to their tenants, occupants, employees and vendors. The owner or manager of such properties must provide a system to recycle cardboard and mixed paper, which includes white and colored office paper, magazines, newspapers, junk mail and any clean paper that tears. In addition, solid waste collectors must offer weekly recycling service for these materials.
Annual notification to tenants about recycling
The owner or property manager of any nonresidential property must provide tenants, occupants, employees, and vendors with notification about how to use the property’s recycling system and must continue to provide notice on an annual basis and whenever a new tenant moves in.
Nonresidential properties must have a recycling
The owner/manager of a nonresidential property must develop a Municipal Solid Waste Management and Recycling Plan and maintain the plan at the property for use by employees, occupants, and vendors. The purpose of the plan is to aid the property owner/manager in making decisions about how and where refuse and recycling will be collected from the building.
A form to assist property owners/managers in complying with this requirement can be found in Appendix B of this document. The plan must be updated whenever there is a significant change to the property, including major construction, change of ownership or management, or change of solid waste and/or recycling vendor. At a minimum, the plan should be updated every five years. A property manager may create his/her own plan, as long as the plan meets the requirements of Chapter 109.1. The plan must be provided to the County within 30 days of written request and there are civil penalties for failure to maintain a Municipal Solid Waste Management and Recycling Plan.
Certain nonresidential properties must recycle additional
Nonresidential properties that meet any one of the following criteria may be required to recycle another Principal Recyclable Material (PRM) in addition to mixed paper and cardboard:
- An annual total waste stream of 100 tons or more from a single nonresidential entity; OR
- An annual combined waste stream of 100 tons or more from a complex or institution; OR
- An annual average occupancy of 200 persons or more at a nonresidential property.
A PRM is any material from the following list that makes up the largest
proportion of the property’s recyclables waste stream (by
- Cardboard and mixed paper;
- Ferrous scrap metal;
- Nonferrous scrap metal;
- Used motor oil;
- Container glass;
- Aluminum or tin cans;
- Automobile bodies;
- Clean wood; or
- Brush, leaves, grass, and other arboreal materials, i.e., yard waste.
Any nonresidential property that meets one of the size criteria listed earlier must recycle the material from the PRM list that is generated in the greatest quantity by weight, in addition to paper and cardboard.
EXCEPTION: If a nonresidential property meets the criteria for recycling an additional PRM but the PRM for the property is mixed paper and cardboard, then no additional recycling is required. Additional recycling is, however, always allowed and encouraged.
Annual recycling report required from certain nonresidential properties or generatorsAny nonresidential property meeting the PRM thresholds described in this document and any company that manages municipal solid waste or recyclables generated in Fairfax County must submit an annual report on the quantity of recycling generated at that property to the Solid Waste Management Program on an annual basis. The report is due on March 1st of each year based on recycling information from the previous calendar year. A sample of the report is contained in Appendix C.
Recycling of cardboard required at construction and demolition
Construction, renovation, and demolition contractors must source-separate and recycle corrugated cardboard such as boxes and packaging. The contractor may use a collection service or self-haul cardboard to a recycling facility, but the cardboard must be separated from other trash and debris and delivered to a recycling facility. Alternatively, the contractor may make arrangements for cardboard to be separated from debris for recycling at a construction and demolition debris recycling facility.
It is incumbent on all refuse and recycling collection companies operating in the county to become familiar with the regulatory requirements that control the collection of refuse and recycling in Fairfax County. Please be aware that this document describes recycling collection service only and not refuse collection service. Other requirements that apply to the collection of refuse are contained in Chapter 109.1.
Minimum levels of recycling service
This document describes the minimum level of recycling service that must be provided by solid waste and recycling collectors operating in Fairfax County. The county-mandated minimum level of recycling service includes:
- Once-weekly collection of trash and recycling from all residential and nonresidential customers.
- Once-weekly collection of residential yard waste on a seasonal basis and with certain limitations, as described in this document.
- Collection of natural Christmas trees set out properly by residential customers, including those from communities with an approved alternative recycling system for yard waste.
Prohibition against mixing recyclables with waste
- It is illegal to mix source-separated recyclables with trash or yard waste.
- It is illegal to mix yard waste with municipal solid waste except from Dec. 24 – March 1 (unless the yard waste comes from a townhouse community with an approved alternative yard waste recycling system; details of this system are contained in Section 1 of this document).
Registration required for recycling collection businesses that
do not collect refuse
- Any person who owns or operates a business that collects recyclables as a commercial enterprise must register with the Solid Waste Management Program any vehicles used solely for the collection of recyclables.
- Businesses that only collect recyclables and do not collect refuse are not required to have vehicle permits or Certificates to Operate from the Solid Waste Management Program; however, they must be registered. Registration of a vehicle used only for collection of recyclables does not constitute an application for a Certificate to Operate. A Certificate to Operate is required to collect refuse in Fairfax County.
- Vehicles used to collect recyclables AND trash will be in compliance with this requirement through the Certificate to Operate process—there is no need to register separately.
- Details of the registration application process can be found in Chapter 109.1
Communication of recycling requirements to residential,
multifamily and nonresidential customers
Collection companies collecting refuse and recycling from residential, multifamily and nonresidential customers must communicate the county’s recycling requirements to those customers as described below:
Communication of recycling services to residents:
At least once a year, solid waste and recyclables collectors must provide a statement of service to each and every residential customer. This is a minimum level of service. The statement must contain specific information as outlined in 109.1-4-2(e)(5), including the recycling services available to them and proper set out instructions. For residential customers, this must include a detailed description of yard waste recycling requirements. For residential customers receiving single-stream collection service, a detailed description of single-stream collection must also be provided to explain to customers how the system works.
Communication of recycling services to multifamily properties:
At least once a year, solid waste and recyclables collectors must provide a statement of service to either: 1) the property manager who will be responsible for delivering the information to each and every multifamily tenant or customer, or 2) directly to each and every multifamily tenant or customer. This is a minimum level of service. The statement must contain specific information about the recycling services available to them and instructions about where and how to recycle.
Communication of recycling services to nonresidential properties:
At least once a year, solid waste and recyclables collectors must provide a statement of service to either: 1) the property manager who will be responsible for delivering the information to each and every tenant or customer, or 2) directly to each and every tenant or customer. This is a minimum level of service. The statement must contain specific information about the recycling services available to them and instructions about where and how to recycle.
A solid waste collector or recycling service provider must provide 30 days’ notice to affected customers and the Deputy Director of the Solid Waste Management Program when any service or collection schedule is altered, including the introduction of single-stream service.
Single-stream recycling collection
Single-stream recycling collection means the collection method where all recyclables, including all recyclables to be collected and any recyclables voluntarily collected by a particular collection company except yard waste, are placed in the same container for collection. The materials are later sorted at a materials recovery facility (MRF). Mixing of refuse with recyclables is a violation of Chapter 109.1. Also, yard waste cannot be mixed with refuse or other recyclables collected by the company.
Solid waste collectors with a Certificate to Operate or a recyclables-only collection company may use the single-stream recycling collection method, as long as the collector meets the following requirements:
- The collector must provide instruction to customers in the annual statement of service on how to properly source-separate materials for single-stream collection.
- The collector must collect all recyclables properly set out at the curb.
- Any vehicle used for single-stream service must be clearly identified, via signage or other insignia, that the vehicle is engaged in recycling activities. An example of acceptable signage is provided in Appendix D.
- If collectors use single-stream collection for recyclables, then all cardboard must be collected for recycling, no matter what size and whether or not it is flattened.
Annual recycling report required from solid waste and
Any company that collects municipal solid waste or recyclables generated in Fairfax County must submit an annual report of waste generation, management, and recycling to the Solid Waste Management Program on an annual basis. The report is due on March 1st of each year for information from the previous calendar year. This report must be made on forms provided by Solid Waste Management Program. These forms are mailed each year to collection companies holding a valid Certificate to Operate from Fairfax County; they are also available on the county website.
Each year, Fairfax County is required by state code to demonstrate that at least 25 percent of the county’s waste is recycled. This report is due to the VA Department of Environmental Quality on April 30th of each year for the previous calendar year. To prepare this report, the county relies on the data provided from each individual collection company.
Data on the quantity of recyclables collected during a calendar year by each company can be calculated by: 1) using weight tickets for documentation of deliveries made to material recovery facilities; or 2) by estimating the quantity of recyclables collected based on the size of the container and the frequency of collection. When recycling quantities (reported in either cubic yards or tons) are estimated, the company must show the county how it estimated the quantity of recyclables collected.
The Solid Waste Management Program has the authority to audit recycling information provided to it by any company. The company must retain recycling data and any documentation, including but not limited to, weight tickets and the detailed estimation formula, for a period of two years. Enforcement penalties may be applied to individual companies for failure to submit the annual recycling rate report by March 1st of each year.