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Trash troubles pile up with the county out of trash cans until later in fall

Emptied trash and recycling bins by the street (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Trash troubles keep piling up with the county out of trash cans for at least another two months.

Fairfax County has “exhausted” its inventory of trash cans and won’t be able to provide new ones to residents until later this fall,  Dept. of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) spokesperson Sharon North told FFXnow.

“A new order already has been placed and should be in-house by early November,” she said via email.

In the meantime, North suggested that residents who are waiting on a new trash can to put their trash in a box or another container and leave it curbside on their pick-up day.

“It will be picked up, even if it’s in a box,” she said.

The missing trash can issue was brought to FFXnow’s attention by a Dranesville District resident.

About 90% of county residents and businesses have their trash picked up by private haulers, but about 10% have theirs picked up by the county. That’s about 43,000 residential units.

It’s those 43,000 that are potentially impacted by the shortage, though it only applies to those who are requesting a new trash can due to theirs being broken, moving into a new house, or are otherwise in need.

The problem started earlier this summer, North shared, when the county gained about 1,100 new customers. This created a bit of a “domino effect.” While the county’s Solid Waste Management Program put in order for more trash cans in May, those were all gone by July.

Rising costs and shortages of the worldwide supply of resin also have contributed to the lack of trash cans available to county residents, North said. The hope remains that a fresh stock of gleaming new trash cans will be available come November for new residents and those with broken ones alike.

This isn’t the county’s only recent trash trouble.

Last month, county officials addressed the “multiple complaints” they’ve been getting from residents about the performance of some contracted trash collectors in the county. Reports were coming from across the county about haulers missing pick-ups and not communicating delays all the while potentially increasing rates.

Complaints were coming in most often about American Disposal, a pattern that dated back to 2019. The company blamed a driver shortage, but Board Chair Jeff McKay told FFXnow in August that alone shouldn’t result in missed pick-ups and increasing rates.

“[A driver shortage] should not result in some of the significant problems our residents face as our haulers do not lack for resources to remedy staffing and related issues,” he said.

A number of solutions were proposed including “franchising” the county’s trash collecting and issuing fines to haulers not fulfilling their trash pick-up duties.

At a Tuesday meeting, the board approved a board matter by Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw to further examine problems with American Disposal  Services and possible solutions.

The matter was jointly pushed forward by McKay and supervisors Kathy Smith and Dan Storck. It directs county staff to update the board on efforts to address complaints about missed and late pick-ups. The matter also includes language the could allow the county to move to a different system of solid waste collection, if changes are approved by the General Assembly. 

County staff from the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services have done amazing work to resolve residents’ individual issues with ADS — but a better solution would be for ADS to meet the requirements of the County ordinance and keep its commitment to its customers,” Walkinshaw wrote in a statement. 

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