Yard Waste Recycling
New Preparation Guidelines
Starting Monday, May 5, residents that receive City refuse collection services should separate yard waste from regular trash for special collection. This material will be collected on your regular collection day. Yard waste includes sticks, twigs, grass, leaves, and dead plants. Yard waste should be placed next to your trash container in a reusable container or paper yard waste bag for special collec
Leaf Collection Update: Look for information starting October 1, 2014
The annual curbside leaf collection program is a service provided to all residents receiving City residential refuse and recycling services.
Three Ways to Recycle Your Leaves
- Leaf Vacuuming
Leaf crews collect leaves raked to the front curb with a vacuum truck. Weather permitting; City crews make three passes through each neighborhood zone.
How to Prepare
- Leaf Bag Collection
The City provides paper bags for leaf collection. These bags are available at numerous City facilities during the collection season and are free of charge (see locations below). Bags are collected, at the front curb, one business day after your regular refuse collection day
How to Prepare
- Place paper bags at the front curb, the day after your regular refuse collection day. Only use paper bags. Leaves in plastic bags are considered refuse, and will be thrown away as trash at the Covanta Energy-from-Waste plant.
- Remove dirt, stones, litter and other debris from leaves before placing in bags.
Free City leaf bags are available until January 3, 2014 at the following locations:
**Limit 15 bags per residential household, not available for commercial use**
City Hall, 301 King Street
Monday - Friday, 7 am - 8 pm
Field Office, City of Alexandria, 2900 A Business Center Drive
Monday - Saturday, 8 am - 5 pm
Charles Barrett Recreation Center, 1115 Martha Custis Drive
Monday - Friday, 2 pm - 6 pm
William Ramsay Recreation Center, 5650 Sanger Avenue
Monday - Friday, 9 am - 9 pm
Saturday, 9 am - 11 pm
Sunday, 1 pm- 5 pm
Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Avenue
Monday - Friday, 9 am - 9 pm
Saturday, 9 am - 6 pm
- Compost Leaves & Yard Waste in Your Backyard
Composting at home is an easy way to take advantage of the environment’s natural recycling process, which creates valuable organic supplements, and can be done right in your own backyard. Learn more about Backyard Composting and view our "How to Compost 101" video.
Leaf Season Information & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When and how are leaves picked up?
From October through December, City crews operate leaf vacuum trucks and collect paper leaf bags throughout the City. Residents who receive City refuse collection services will receive three passes during the season. Residents are responsible for raking their leaves to the curb or placing leaves into paper leaf bags and placing them curbside for collection. Leaf bags are collected one day after regular refuse collection.
How do I know when my leaves are scheduled to be vacuumed?
A schedule is mailed to residents and posted on-line in October. The City is divided into five collection zones, and City staff vacuums leaves in each zone three times. The schedule lists three dates for each zone. To determine your assigned zone, use the Zone Finder feature on the City’s website or refer to the brochure (a copy is located on-line).
If the vacuuming schedule changes, how will I be informed?
If the vacuuming schedule is changed, a new schedule is announced on the City’s website, on the Leaf Hotline, by an eNews update every Friday, on the T&ES Facebook page, and by calling a City customer service representative. See the listing at the bottom of this page.
Why does Zone 5 (Old Town) have subzones?
Zone 5 (Old Town) has been divided into four subzones to make its service more consistent with the rest of the City. The leaf collection program delivers three passes for each zone. This was not the case for Zone 5 in the past. With the introduction of subzones, residents of Zone 5 will have scheduled dates for each of their three passes.
Where are leaf crews, why aren't they picking up my leaves?
Sometimes crews drop behind schedule due to bad weather or equipment problems.
Where do I rake or take my leaves?
Leaves should be raked to the curb or placed in paper leaf bags for collection. Avoid gutters and storm drains, and do not rake leaves into alleys or service roads.
If I am unable to rake the leaves from my yard, will City staff rake them for me?
Residents are responsible for raking leaves to the curb or placing them curbside in paper bags. Commercial landscaping companies are widely available to rake leaves for a fee. The City does not arrange for such services or endorse any particular service provider.
When will my leaf bags be collected?
Leaf bags are collected the day after normal trash collection. For instance, if trash is collected Monday, leaf bags will be collected on Tuesday.
Why were my leaves not collected, if they were put in a plastic bag at the curb?
Leaves in plastic bags are considered refuse, collected with normal trash pickup, and disposed of at the Covanta Waste to Energy plant. Plastic bags are unable to be processed into mulch, and therefore are considered trash. Please recycle by putting your leaves into paper bags, so they can be recycled into much.
I am having an event and I need my leaves picked up before it takes place?
Unfortunately due to staffing constraints there are no special leaf pick-up that can be scheduled in advance If you have leaves you would like collected before the next leaf collection pass throughout your neighborhood, please put them in leaf bags for collection after your normal refuse collection day. Leaf bags are available for free at designated City facilities.
What day will my leaves be picked up?
We cannot give you an exact date for leaf collection on your street due to weather, staffing, and equipment.
I want my leaves picked up today, why can't I schedule a pickup?
Unfortunately the City does not offer special pickup services. Please check your collection date in your zone.
I saw crews in my neighborhood, but they did not get my leaves or they went to the other side of the street and did not do my side?
Crews often complete the left side of a street and then return for the right side. There is also a chance that crews may be emptying a truck, and will come back to finish their route.
It's snowing and raining, will crews collect during inclement weather?
Weather affects the collection schedule, if the weather is bad, crews will not be able to collect leaves, and will need to reschedule for that day. Check online for a weekly updated schedule or sign up for T&ES’ Solid Waste E-News to get weekly updates by e-mail.
I raked my leaves out to the curb too late, will they come back to get them?
If crews have already been through your neighborhood zone, then consider checking for the next pass in your zone or placing leaves in paper bags for collection after your normal trash collection day.
What happens to my leaves once they are picked up?
Leaves are ground into mulch and available to residents in the spring.
How can I find the most updated information about the City’s leaf program schedule, or additional information?
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RESOURCE RECOVERY STATIONS AT FARMERS' MARKETS:: Are you interested in composting food waste, but aren’t able to do so at home? The City’s Solid Waste Division now has Resource Recovery Stations, located at the City's Famers’ Markets (Old Town, Del Ray, West End, & Four Mile Run). Staff will be on site to explain how food yard waste programs work at home, and accept items for composting. There will also be compost tubs available to purchase for $5; each one conveniently has a lid, handle, and small enough to transport food waste to and from home, disposing items at the stations located in the Farmers’ Markets. Residents who bring food waste for composting receive a complimentary mini-bag of compost.
Learn about Backyard Composting, view our "How to Compost 101" video.
What is Compost?
Compost is one of the most valuable resources for beautifying your landscape, preventing waste and saving money. Typical yard waste such as leaves, grass clippings, and shrub trimmings are some of the ingredients used to make compost. Finished compost is produced when bacteria and fungi break down organic matter in the pile or bin.
- Prevents waste and saves both you and the city valuable tax dollars. Few residents realize that 20 percent of the refuse picked up on collection days is yard waste. Composting also prevents yard waste from being raked or blown into the street, where it can clog storm drains and street gutters.
- Avoids the trouble and expense of purchasing mulch.
- Assists the soil in holding nutrients and moisture where plants can use them, reducing the need for fertilizers and excess watering.
- Decreases soil erosion and water run-off. Plant roots penetrate compost-rich soil easier and hold the soil in place.
- Retains moisture and restricting weed development in the soil.
How to Compost
Composting is generally easy following 4 easy steps:
- Choose or construct an appropriate bin for your compost. General yard waste and grass clippings can be composted in almost any type of compost bin. Enclosed bins may be more difficult to turn and aerate, but they are also better for regulating moisture and temperature, which can accelerate the composting process. NOTE: Although vegetable and fruit scraps make excellent compost, we highly recommend you choose an enclosed container with a secure lid to avoid attracting unwanted animals or other pests.
- Fill your bin with a balanced mixture for best results: (1 to 3 rule)
- 1 part Green stuff (high in nitrogen) to activate the heat process in your compost. Perfect heat-generating materials include: young weeds (before they develop seeds); comfrey leaves; yarrow; chicken, rabbit or pigeon manure; grass cuttings; etc. Other green items that compost well include fruit and vegetables; fruit and vegetable scraps; coffee grounds and tea leaves (including tea bags - remove the staple if you wish); vegetable plant remains; plants.
- 3 parts Brown stuff (high in carbon) to serve as the "fiber" for your compost. Brown stuff includes fall (autumn) leaves; dead plants and weeds; sawdust; cardboard & cardboard tubes (from foil wraps etc); old flowers (including dried floral displays, minus plastic/foam attachments); old straw and hay; and small animal bedding.
- Other items that can be composted but you may not have thought of before: paper towels; paper bags; cotton clothing (torn up); egg shells; hair (human, dog, cat etc.) Use all these items in moderation.
- Air. It is possible to compost without air (anaerobically), but the process employs different bacteria and an anaerobic compost pile will take on a sour smell like vinegar. If you believe your compost pile needs more air, turn it, and consider adding more dry or brown stuff to open up the structure.
- Water. Your pile should be about as damp as a sponge that has been wrung out. Depending on your climate, you can add water directly or rely on the moisture that comes in with "green" items. A lid on the compost bin will help to keep moisture in. If a pile gets too much water in it, it might not get enough air.
- Soil or starter compost. This is not strictly necessary, but a light sprinkling garden soil between layers can help to introduce the correct bacteria to start the compost cycle a little more quickly. If you are pulling weeds, the soil left on the roots may be sufficient to serve this purpose.
- Layer or mix the different materials in your bin so that they come into contact with one another and so that you avoid any large clumps. Especially avoid compacting large quantities of green materials together.
- Turn your pile regularly, once every week or two. Mixing the pile in this way helps to keep air flowing inside the pile and encourages the growth of the right kind of bacteria and makes for a nice, sweet-smelling pile which will decompose faster.
- If you live in a colder climate that has a shorter composting season, be careful of adding slow rotting items such as tough branches, twigs and hedge clippings; wood ash; wood shavings and wood pruning. They can be composted, but you may want to compost them separately due to their longer break-down time.
What not to Compost
*Avoid composting bread, pasta, nuts, cooked food, and newspaper. They don't break down very easily, become quite slimy, and can hold up the heating, rotting-down process. (Old nuts left in the garden will disappear quickly if you have squirrels or monkeys around!!)
Never compost the following items for reasons of health, hygiene and inability to break down:
- Meat and meat scraps
- Fish and fish bones
- Plastic or synthetic fibers
- Oil or fat
- Pet or human feces (except for manure of herbivorous creatures such as rabbits and horses)
- Weeds that have gone to seed
- Diseased plants
- Disposable diapers (nappies)
- Glossy magazines
- Coal and coke ash
- Cat litter
These items should be removed in the normal garbage or recycling collection.
Composting can be one part science and one part art form. Learning how to achieve the right balance of materials in your compost pile often takes practice. Below is a list of common problems that can arise with compost piles.
- excess moisture
- turn pile or add dry porous "brown" material such as straw, leaves, or sawdust (untreated)
- turn pile or make pile smaller
- too much nitrogen or "green material" (lack of carbon)
- add high carbon or "brown" material such as straw, wood chips, sawdust, or leaves
Low Pile Temperature
- pile too small
- insufficient moisture
- poor aeration
- not enough nitrogen or "green material"
- make pile bigger or insulate sides
- add water while turning pile
- turn pile
- add "green material" (nitrogen sources) such as grass clippings
Pests such as rats, raccoons, insects
- presence of meat scraps or fatty food waste
- NEVER include meat, dairy or fatty foods in a compost pile.
- Composting should not attract pests or cause of any rodent problem, however, it can aggravate existing problems if improper composting is practiced.
Additional Information on Composting is available by contacting:
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What is Grasscycling?
Grasscycling involves leaving the grass clipping on your lawn, to fertilize the grass and return their nutrients to the lawn. Grasscycling is an alternative to throwing away the valuable nutrients in your grass.
Each year, the average lawn generates eight tons of grass clippings per acre. Your grass clippings can account for as much as 50% of your yard waste during the peak growing season. You can leave these clippings on the lawn to feed the soil. This practice is known as "grasscycling." It enhances the health of your lawn by adding moisture and acting as a natural fertilizer. It also saves you time – no more bagging clippings and dragging them to the curb!
- Grasscycling will substantially reduce the time you are spending on lawn care. Specifics will depend on the size of your lawn.
How to Grasscycle:
- Mow your lawn to between 2 and 2 ½ inches to hide clippings. Cut no more than 1/3 of grass height to keep clippings small. Leave the clippings on the lawn. They will break down quickly and not result in thatch. Mow the lawn when it's dry to avoid clumping.
- Water deeply, but infrequently. (If you have clay soil, it is better to water more frequently for a shorter period of time.)
- If you need a new mower, consider a push mower or an electric mulching lawn mower. The best mulching mowers can blow finely chopped clippings down into your lawn where they disappear from sight, decompose, and fertilize the lawn quickly. An electric mulching mower also cuts down on air pollution and a push mower eliminates it completely!
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Christmas Tree Collection
Christmas trees can be recycled curbside by residents who receive refuse collection services from the City. Trees must be set at the curb, on your regular refuse collection day, starting January 6 through January 17. Trees collected during this time will be ground into mulch and available to residents in the spring. Remember, trees will not be picked up in the alleys, and trees placed at the curb prior to January 6 will be collected as regular refuse.
To prepare trees for collection, residents are reminded to:
- Remove all ornaments, tinsel and stands.
- Do not place in plastic bags.
- Place the tree at the curb by 6:00am on your regular refuse collection day.
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As leaves and wood compost, they become a valuable nutrient supplement for garden and lawn applications. Each Spring, leaves collected each autumn are shredded in a large "tub grinder" to produce a product referred to as "leaf mulch." The Christmas trees collected in January are also shredded and chipped into "wood mulch."
Pick Up of Mulch:
For a limited time during the Spring and early Summer months, mulch is available free of charge at the site on a first-come, first-served basis. However, on-site pick up is limited to Alexandria residents and private contractors who use the mulch for pre-approved Alexandria City government projects only. Residents must bring own shovels, buckets, etc for mulch pick-up. Proof of residency will be checked at the site.
Mulch Site Location and Hours:
The City of Alexandria's mulch site is location at 4215 Eisenhower Avenue. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Gates close at 3:30 p.m.).
Delivery of Mulch:
Mulch Delivery Services – Place Orders Now!
Starting Friday March 8, orders can be placed for delivery of mulch throughout April and May. Delivery dates and times are limited, and appointments are on a first come first served basis.
For a limited time during the Spring and early Summer months, mulch is also available for delivery. Deliveries are made to Alexandria residents only. The charge is $50 for each load (full, or half). Delivery of mulch loads, which equal about six cubic yards (one dump truck load) are scheduled each day Monday through Friday. No deliveries are scheduled on weekends or holidays.
Please call 703.746.4410 to schedule delivery
Please note: Checks must be received prior to delivery, and must be made payable to the City of Alexandria. If you are planning to schedule a delivery, please be prepared to let us know the specific location at which the mulch should be delivered, as it must be left on your property. Mulch cannot be delivered on the street in front of your property or behind it.
**Mulch Disclaimer: Mulch is a natural, unprocessed material that has been stored outside. As a result, it may contain allergens, poison ivy, termites and/or carpenter ants or other foreign matter. Users should wear proper clothing and protection when handling the mulch. The City of Alexandria makes no guarantee concerning the quality of the mulch, and assumes no liability for injury or property damage as a result of the use or delivery of the mulch. Residents who self-haul from the mulch site do so at their own risk.
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