WasteSmart: Planning for the Future of Solid Waste Management in Alexandria
Garbage removal is one of the City of Alexandria’s most important core services. Each year, Alexandria residents, businesses and visitors fill 12,000 garbage trucks with trash, recycling, and yard waste. If those trucks were lined up end to end, the resulting convoy would be 78 miles long. The Department of Transportation and Environmental Services’ Resource Recovery Division works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help keep our community as clean, livable, and green as possible. The Division is responsible for not only collecting, sorting, recycling, and disposing of that waste, but ensuring that the City's waste management program is safe, effective, efficient, and environmentally sound.
Toward that end, the Resource Recovery Division is preparing a new strategic plan that will guide the City’s solid waste management for the next 20 years. The WasteSmart Strategic Plan will ensure that Alexandria continues to be a good steward of its waste, and prepare for, and take full advantage of, technological and environmental advancements that align our waste management practices with Alexandria's commitment to being an exceptionally clean, safe, enjoyable place to live, work, and visit.
About the Planning Process
The plan will contain goals and objectives, evaluations of current programs, and recommendations for aligning these programs with the updated objectives. All programs will be evaluated with regard to the benefits they bring to our community, their environmental impact, and their relative cost when compared to alternatives.
The plan, in draft form, is to be presented to City refuse collection staff, the City’s Environmental Policy Commission, residents who receive City-provided collection services, and other Alexandria residents. After incorporating ideas and suggestions as appropriate, a final version will be presented to City Council for review and approval in the fall of 2018. The adopted plan will shape Alexandria waste management for the 20-year period beginning with FY 19 and ending with FY 38.
How Can I Participate?
Anyone who lives, works, or visits Alexandria throws something away or is impacted by someone who does. Everyone’s ideas, opinions, and reactions are welcome, especially those who receive and pay for City-provided residential collection services. The draft strategic plan, WasteSmart, will be posted here when it becomes available. Community presentations and surveys are being developed. This website is the access point for all documents and work related to the plan.
Updates on the plan will be available to those signed up to receive Resource Recovery eNews updates.
- Sign up for eNews
City Council Public Hearing
*Please note that the public hearing has been rescheduled to January.*
On Saturday, January 12, the public is invited to attend the City Council Public Hearing/Adoption of the WasteSmart Strategic Plan.
Past Presentations and Participations
- 10/18/2018 - WasteSmart Community Open House - Meeting Presentation
- 9/24/2018 - Draft Strategic Plan Presentation to the Environmental Policy Commission
- 9/8/2018 - Environmental Policy Commission Annual Retreat
- 8/23/2018 - Environmental Action Plan Phase One Update Open House
- 8/20/2018 - Potomac Yards Civic Association
- 7/23/2018 - Hume Springs Civic Association
- 6/27/2018- Alexandria Federation of Civic Associations
- 6/20/2018 - Wakefield-Tarleton Civic Association
- 6/14/2018 – Clover-College Park Civic Association (Canceled due to water main break)
- 6/13/2018 - Del Ray Citizens’ Association
- 6/11/2018 – Old Town Civic Association Ad Hoc Committee (Ran out of time at meeting)
- 6/11/2018 - North Ridge Citizens’ Association
- 6/4/2018 - Lynhaven Citizens
- 5/23/2018 - Seminary West Civic Association
- 3/10/2018 - Eco-City Café
Recycling programs are in crisis
Due to changes in packaging design, limitations on sorting technology, and customer confusion about how to recycle correctly, recycling programs are struggling to fulfill their mission of processing recyclables back into raw materials to be used again to make new products. While some material like paper, cardboard, and metals are successfully recovered, others like glass and some plastics are difficult to recover.
Changes in the Financial Landscape
In 2015, the City entered into a long-term agreement with Covanta Energy, Inc., to operate the City’s waste-to-energy facility located on Eisenhower Avenue (co-owned with Arlington County). This agreement significantly altered the cost of disposing of waste at the facility and has given cause to re-evaluate the costs and benefits of all related programs. Further, since the agreement ends in 2038, it is important to establish a timeline for initiating planning to accommodate future change.
New Environmental Challenges
The collection and disposal of solid waste involves the release of significant amounts of climate-changing emissions, or greenhouse gases (GHG). The impetus of the plan approved by Council in 2004 was that landfills and other locations to bury waste were becoming scarce and natural resources (e.g. metals, oil, trees) were being wasted by landfilling rather than being recovered by recycling. These two challenges, while still important, are no longer considered as critical as they once were. Reducing GHG has emerged as an important objective in solid waste management.
In July 2017, the City retained an independent firm to complete a series of seven memorandums to evaluate the City’s current waste management programs and provide recommendations for future long-term management strategies.
- Task 1 & 2 - Evaluate current services and benchmark with other communities
- Task 3 - Review costs and benefits of collecting solid waste by contract
- Task 4 - Identify opportunities to increase revenue by offering new services
- Task 5 - Evaluate the collection and processing of recyclables separate from regular trash
- Task 6 - Evaluate the environmental benefits of current waste collection and processing practices
- Task 7 - Evaluate feasible alternatives to operating a waste-to-energy facility in Alexandria after 2038 and recommend a general planning schedule for managing Alexandria’s solid waste beyond 2038
The final draft memorandums were completed in July 2018 with a series of recommendations for the City to evaluate. These technical papers are currently being utilized in the development of the strategic plan.