Fairfax County wants to know what trash collectors are telling residents about recycling.
In anticipation of Fairfax Recycles Day, which will fall on Nov. 15, the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services is surveying residents throughout October about whether their hauler is sharing educational materials on recycling.
“The survey takes about two minutes to complete and includes inquiries such as the type of information received and how often,” DPWES said in a news release yesterday. “The goal is to receive data that will provide a clearer picture of the overall countywide recycling services of County and private collectors.”
The survey is available online and will remain open until Oct. 30. Participants will receive “a cool gift” and, if they want, a mention on the county’s website, according to DPWES.
The department developed the survey as part of a Four Touch Points (FTP) initiative, which took effect on Jan. 1 and requires trash collectors to provide information about waste reduction and recycling to their customers in order to be licensed to operate in Fairfax County.
According to DPWES, about 90% of county residents and businesses get waste collection services through private companies, which must get the certificate permitting them to operate in the county renewed every year. Participation in FTP is now being considered as part of that renewal process.
While county leaders have explored getting more authority from the state to manage trash pick-ups, public services have encountered staffing and operational issues as well. DPWES has proposed eliminating fall leaf collection services, starting with the 2024-2025 season.
According to the county, materials universally accepted in curbside recycling bins include plastic bottles and jugs, mixed paper and cardboard, metal food and drink cans, and paper cartons. Glass can be recycled in the purple containers that have popped up around the county and at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex.
Photo via Sigmund/Unsplash
Yard waste is piling up in Fairfax County, as a nationwide labor shortage in the hauling services industry has triggered collection delays that could potentially last weeks.
The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has made some temporary changes to its practices after recently warning customers, who make up about 10% of residents and businesses, to expect delays for the next several weeks.
“There is a tremendous amount of competition for drivers, which has an impact on our ability to recruit and retain,” DPWES spokesperson Sharon North said in an email. “Since COVID-19, the home delivery business has skyrocketed, often providing more attractive and lucrative trucking jobs in the private sector.”
Now, the county says it will allow solid waste service providers — both public and private — to collect trash and yard waste together if they are experiencing labor shortages that prevent them from completing routes in a timely manner.
“This temporary allowance can be used by both private haulers and county collective service providers if they choose based on their staff resources,” the county said in an announcement on Wednesday (Sept. 1).
The changes took effect last Tuesday (Aug. 31). The county also said it will review a requirement in mid-October that prevents combining recycling and yard waste hauling.
“[The] staffing shortages in the Solid Waste industry are happening in many municipalities across the country, not just in Fairfax County,” North wrote. “Even private solid waste/recycling haulers are struggling during these times.”
As of Friday (Sept. 3), the county had 13 vacancies for maintenance workers, heavy and motor equipment operators, and lead refuse operators. Hourly pay for positions with regular benefits ranges from $18.10 on average for regular maintenance workers to $29.95 on average for lead refuse operators.
North said in an Aug. 30 email that the county’s trash and recycling services have not been affected by the delays.
County collection customers are primarily located along the eastern border of Fairfax County. Most other residents and businesses receive hauling services from private companies.
Yard waste and trash will still end up in their same, separate downstream destinations.