Public Works and Environmental Services

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our administrative offices are open to the public by appointment only at this time. Please call or email 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., Mon. - Fri. The permit office is open to the public with or without appointment 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Mon. - Fri.

703-324-5230
TTY 711

12000 Government Center Parkway
Suite 448, Fairfax, Va 22035

John Kellas,
Deputy Director, Solid Waste Management

Plastic

Your first option is to Refuse. Did you know there’s another step you can take as you “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” (the three R’s)? It’s the fourth ‘R’ for “Refuse”. When you make refusing the first option you’ll begin saying NO to many items. For example, “refuse” to accept single-use plastic items, which have an average life span of 15 minutes before they are thrown away. Where’s away? A significant amount of single-use items are improperly disposed as litter, which is why much of the plastic found floating in our oceans is disposable/single-use plastic, such as plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway containers, cups and straws. Pro-actively say NO to single-use items with your drink order and bring your own reusable straw. Refuse to use a disposable plastic or paper cup at the coffee machine or water cooler. Say NO to plastic bags in the checkout line. Be prepared and bring your own reusable items. Refuse to accept that ‘it’s just the way it is’ and challenge yourself to find the waste-free alternatives for straws, napkins, beverage containers, and the other disposable items we’ve become accustomed to accepting and using.

Always and Never Recycle graphic
Visit Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and download the Always/Never flyer in multiple languages

Reduce the amount of plastic needing disposal. Consider reusable bags for the grocery store and reusable rather than disposable containers for food storage and packing to go. Your purchasing decisions can make a meaningful difference.

Reuse plastic containers in creative ways. An internet search for “reusing plastic bottles” will turn up some great ideas for household organizers and craft projects. Many plastic take-out food containers can be washed and reused.

Recycle. In theory, all materials are recyclable; however, the curbside recycling program only accepts certain materials. Think before you throw. When in doubt, throw it out.

Put loose (not bagged), clean, dry, empty plastic bottles and jugs (with caps on if you have the cap) in the recycling bin at home or work, or take to a recycling drop-off center at I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex.

How Do I Determine What Can Be Recycled?

What gets recycled depends on your recyclables collector and what their chosen processing facility is currently recovering and selling. Ninety percent of the homes putting out recyclables in Fairfax County are collected by private companies, who take your recyclables to a privately-owned Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in the region.

Use the Always and Never Recycle flyer for general guidance. Visit Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to download the Always/Never flyer in multiple languages.

If Fairfax County Government collects your waste, visit American Disposal Services FAQs and Throwaway tool for answers on what is and isn't recyclable. Does Fairfax County Pick Up My Trash? Use this map to find out.

If a private company collects your waste, please contact them directly for specific instructions.

Which Numbers Can Be Recycled?

The RIC Number located on your plastic does NOT indicate whether something is recyclable or not; it simply indicates the type of resin that the product is made from. Learn more about what the RIC Number does and doesn't mean. Please recycle your plastic bottles, jugs, and jars rather than relying on the RIC Number.

What happens to unrecycled plastic? Is it just buried in the ground?

The overwhelming majority of municipal solid waste collected in Fairfax County is delivered to Covanta’s waste-to-energy facility in Lorton where it is processed to produce renewable energy and a stabilized ash by-product that only takes up about 10% of the original volume which can then be buried in the Fairfax County’s solid waste landfill.

Can I put grocery bags in my recycling bin?

Please take plastic grocery bags to any of the larger grocery stores to be recycled (there are usually drop-off bins at or near the door) or place them in the trash. Plastic bags put in a curbside recycling bin can tangle and damage sorting equipment at the facility where collected recyclables are sorted and processed for sale (e.g., the bags get tangled in sorting equipment and conveyor belts and the facility has to shut down to have them removed). Plastic bags that make it past the sorting equipment also contaminate the other grades of plastic being recovered.

What Can I Do with Gardening Plastics?

View ideas to reduce, reuse, recycle Gardening Plastic Pots, Trays and Bags.

What about kitchen plastic wraps and baggies?

Used plastic wrap, or cling wrap, disposable plastic baggies and wrappers should be thrown in the trash.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant