Skip Navigation LinksHome News Ask Fairfax! Archived Discussion Room
Recycle Right, Fairfax Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Recycle Right, Fairfax

Do you want to know how to properly get rid of old electronics, hazardous materials like oil-based paint and fluorescent bulbs, and other household waste? County staff from the Solid Waste Management Program will be online Wednesday, April 24 at 2 p.m., to answer all of your questions about recycling and trash. Join Pamela Gratton, Fairfax County's recycling manager, and Ben Boxer, public information officer, in a discussion of everyday ways that you can help keep Fairfax County green.

Benjamin Boxer : Welcome to today's chat about trash and recycling. Pamela and I are happy to have this opportunity to answer your questions.

Ken : Is it necessary to wipe hard disks of the operating system and all data files, or can we be assured that the hard disk drives will be recycled with an attempt to use them? In addition, I would like to know where the electronics are recycled, where in the US or in a foreign country? thank you.

Pamela Gratton :

The contractor that the county uses cleans the hard drive to meet industry standards.  If you are concerned about your information, we suggest that you remove your hard drive and destroy it yourself.  The contractor specializes in repairing and reconfiguring newer computer systems to be sold on the aftermarket so many hard drives are reused.

Obsolete electronics that cannot be repaired for reuse are sold as scrap in the US, none of it is exported.

Carly : I live in an apartment complex with over 1,100 units in the Mount Vernon District. Dumpsters are spread throughout the complex and everything, including renovation/construction waste is dumped into those dumpsters. No recycling facilities are available. Why does Fairfax County not require apartment complexes to provide recycling services?

Benjamin Boxer : Recycling is required in all residential properties in Fairfax County in accordance with Chapter 109.1 of the Fairfax County Code. Multi-family properties built before 2007 are required to provide recycling service for a minimum of mixed paper and cardboard. Those built after 2007 are also required to provide recycling collection for metal food and beverage containers, glass bottles and jars and plastic bottles and jugs.

If you do not have a system for recycling at your residence, please contact the Solid Waste Management Program 703-324-5230, TTY 711 or by email at and we will be happy to assist your property manager in meeting these requirements.

Joan Young : Is there a code on the bottom of plastic containers that tells us if they can be recycled? Mayor Blumberg mentioned it on the news last night, but I couldn't find one.

Pamela Gratton :

The number on the bottom of a plastic container provides information about the type of plastic that the container is made of and it does not connote its recyclability.  You should check with the company that collects your recycling to see if they can take a particular type of plastic.  At minimum, you should recycle plastic bottles and jugs as required by county code.

Anonymous User : Where does one dispose of sharpes containers in Fairfax County?

Pamela Gratton : We suggest that you put the used sharps in a hard plastic bottle or jug, tape the lid shut and label it as a sharp and put it in the regular trash. This protects workers from being hurts during collection.  Since Fairfax County does not landfill trash, it will be combusted in the county's waste-to-energy facility and will be destroyed through the combustion process.

Anonymous User : Is it okay to flush old medications to dispose of them?

Benjamin Boxer : No. Do not flush old medicines down the drain. Old medications should be disposed of in the trash using the following steps: 1. Keep the medicines in their original container; 2. Cross out your name and prescription number for safety; 3. Add some salt water to pills in order to start dissolving them, or add something inedible like cat litter, dirt or ash to liquids; and 4. Seal the container and secure with duct or packing tape and put it in the trash. 

For additional information about disposing of medicines, go to

Jen : If a non-recyclable item is placed in the recycle bin, is it sorted out at the recycling facility, or does it contaminate the whole load and then none can be recycled?

Benjamin Boxer : In general, yes. Recycling facilities do have mechanisms to sort out materials that are improperly disposed of with other recyclables. However, if large quantities of trash are included in deliveries to a recycling facility, the entire load can be rejected by the recycler and it will be disposed of as trash.

Anonymous User : What activities or groups are available in Fairfax for me to get involved with that help with recycling, the environment, etc? Are there any for children as well?

Pamela Gratton :

A great place to start your search would be the county’s environmental web page - There are so many different areas that might peak your interest – this should give you some ideas of places to start.

Also, while much of our work is operational in nature and does not lend itself well to volunteer participation, we do work very closely with some organizations that you might wish to be a part of who can help point you in the right direction with your desire to help us out.

1.       The Clean Fairfax Council is a fantastic local organization that is designed to support interested residents in preventing litter, litter clean-up activities and other environmentally-based initiatives.  They even give out an annual grant to schools for actually implementing sustainable environmental projects in the community.  Jen Cole is the executive director and she frequently meets and works with groups of young people who, like you, wish to contribute to a greener community. For more information, go to or call 703-324-5471.

2.       The Alice Ferguson Foundation is another excellent group with which Fairfax County partners often to help promote clean watersheds.  There is a variety of information on their website when it comes to providing tips for residents who want to be involved and they even keep track of clean-up opportunities available throughout the region. Their website is

More information for school-age students in on our website at:

Benjamin Boxer : Thank you for joining us today. We appreciate your interest in helping us promote a cleaner, greener Fairfax. 

Additional trash and recycling information is available online at or by calling the Solid Waste Management Program at 703-324-5230, TTY 711.