Solid Waste Management
(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District)
Fairfax County has developed a new solid waste management plan at the behest of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The plan is an integrated community strategy for dealing with trash and recycling for the next 20 years. It must address all aspects of solid waste, even those not directly handled by county staff.
Most trash and recyclables in the county are collected by private haulers. About 13% is collected by county crews. Most of the trash passes through the I-66 Transfer Station where smaller truck loads are consolidated into tractor trailer loads that are transported to the waste-to-energy (WTE) facility at the I-95 Landfill complex. At the WTE, the waste is burned and used to generate electricity—enough to serve 70,000 homes annually.
Recyclables are collected curbside or at drop-off centers and transported to a materials recovery facility. There the materials are sorted and shipped to the markets where they are sold. Buying recycled materials helps develop the markets for additional materials to be recycled.
Solid waste materials are disposed in many different ways. Household hazardous waste, including oil-based paint, antifreeze and used oil, is collected and sent to a licensed facility to be reused, combusted, or disposed. Most construction and remodeling waste goes to special landfills designed for these types of materials. Most of these are privately owned and operated. Yard waste is collected curbside and in many instances taken to the I-66 Transfer Station where it is consolidated into larger trucks and shipped to a private composting facility or a county grinding facility. Mulch made at the county grinding facility is available to the public for pickup at no cost.
Different kinds of solid waste are managed in different ways. Not every service provider manages every type of solid waste. In Fairfax County, private companies provide construction waste landfilling, hazardous waste and regulated medical waste collection and disposal, recycling and trash collection, and composting.
The county government provides recycling and trash collection in designated sanitary districts, recycling drop-off centers, citizen disposal facilities, educational programs, and transfer station operations. County staff also operate the I-95 Landfill complex where ash from the WTE facility is disposed. Household hazardous waste is accepted at the I-95 Landfill and the I-66 Transfer Station.
The WTE facility at the landfill is a public-private partnership between the county and Covanta Fairfax, Inc. The Fairfax County Division Of Solid Waste Disposal and Resource Recovery oversees operation of the WTE facility and is responsible for providing 930,750 tons of waste each year to the facility. Waste is reduced 90% in volume, leaving an ash product that is put in a landfill.
Some issues Fairfax County needs to consider in the future include:
- how to pay for community benefit programs.
- shrinking construction landfill capacities.
- how many recycling drop-off centers are needed.
- how to provide effective public education programs, sources of funding.
- the increased need for household hazardous waste services.
- should additional materials be recycled curbside.
- should all businesses be required to recycle.
- how can collection of trash and recyclables be most effectively and efficiently accomplished in the county.