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
Troubled trash company Haulin’ Trash has closed its bankruptcy case, leaving thousands of Fairfax County residents unable to get refunds for missed or delayed services.
Back in December, the trash collecting company Haulin’ Trash permanently shuttered after missing a series of collections due to staff shortages and “financial difficulties.” The company had operated in the county for about a year and served approximately 3,000 customers.
To help those residents, Fairfax County temporarily waived landfill disposal fees for former Haulin’ Trash customers.
Fairfax County received more than 300 complaints about the company during its one year of operation, including 147 to the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) and 188 to the Department of Cable and Consumer Services (DCCS), per officials.
In March, the company officially filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The case was closed early last month, with the company not having enough funds to provide refunds or credits to customers.
“On April 5, 2023, the bankruptcy trustee issued a report of No Distribution-No Funds, and the case was closed on April 6, 2023. No credits or refunds will be issued to affected residents/customers,” DPWES spokesperson Sharon North wrote FFXnow. “To date, Haulin’ Trash has not been responsive to the consumer complaints sent from the County. Because the bankruptcy case is now closed, Fairfax County Consumer Affairs is unable to mediate further.”
DPWES does have a list on its website of other providers for impacted residents.
Haulin’ Trash’s demise came as the county grappled with trash troubles that date back to at least 2019 but worsened during the pandemic. About 90% of residents and businesses are served by private collection companies like Haulin’ Trash.
Last fall, DWPES had American Disposal enter into a consent agreement that asked the company to hire more drivers and customer service personnel, increase salaries, and credit customers for missed pick-ups. It also imposed a $5,000 fine on the company.
Since that time, customer complaints against American Disposal have significantly decreased, the county says.
“American Disposal Service has met the requirements of the 2022 Consent Agreement,” North wrote. “Complaints for haulers which operate in Fairfax County are currently at satisfactory levels.”
Only four complaints have been made to DCCS about American Disposal since the beginning of the year, per a spokesperson from the agency.
Despite short-term service problems appearing to be resolved, the county is still looking to make big changes to its solid waste management model.
“DPWES staff are in the process of scoping a major revision to our solid waste management plan to meet state and board directives,” North said. “During this time we will look at alternative options for waste management.”
Beginning May 1, the facilities will reduce hours for dropping off household hazardous waste (HHW) and electronics waste. The changes are ushered in by staffing shortages and are intended to maintain a “consistent quality service,” according to the county.
Currently, four of the seven total positions for environmental technology are vacant — positions that are hard to fill internally and externally, says Sharon North, a spokesperson for the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES).
“They require specific training and knowledge to work with such materials, per federal and state regulation,” North told FFXnow. “The training is focused on packaging, labeling, and marking shipping containers and drums, as well as basic knowledge of chemical, environmental and health hazards, plus hazardous waste emergency response methods, procedures and regulations.”
Private contractors that the county typically relies on to supply field chemists and other staff have also been hit by similar labor problems.
“These challenges are not unlike what we are seeing throughout our DPWES operations with regard to frontline field personnel,” North said. “The most challenging positions are drivers, operators, technicians, maintenance and trades personnel, safety specialists and general labor.”
A breakdown of the new hours is below:
*The new I-66 HHW drop-off hours will be:
Monday and Friday: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday and Thursday: noon to 5 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
*There are no HHW drop-offs hours on Wednesday.
*The new I-95 HHW drop-off hours will be:
Wednesday: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
*There are no HHW drop-offs hours on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday or Sunday.
*The new I-66 electronics waste drop-off hours will be:
Monday: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday: noon to 5 p.m. (half day)
Thursday: noon to 5 p.m. (half day)
Friday: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
*There are no electronics drop-off hours on Wednesday.
*The new I-95 electronics drop-off hours will be:
Wednesday: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
*There are no electronics drop-off hours on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday or Sunday
(Updated at 3 p.m. on 4/12/2023) Pollo Campero is opening a new restaurant in the Town of Herndon.
The business plans to build a new nearly 3,000-square-foot restaurant at 1131 Elden Street, according to town documents. The restaurant announced its intention in 2021 to relocate from 496 Elden Street to the new location.
But the business needs an exception for trash collection. During review of the site plan, the company says it was not able to secure a contract with a trash collection company because a development condition restricts the trash pick-up hours from 7-10 a.m.
The proposed condition will restrict trash collection during lunch and dinner (11AM – 1 PM and 5 PM – 7 PM). The restaurant is allowed to be open outside of those hours.
“Based upon input from the trash collection providers, the applicant requests a special exception amendment to revise development condition four to restrict when trash collection cannot occur, instead of limiting the hours trash collection can occur,” Walsh Colucci land use planner Kelly Posusney said in a Feb. 15 letter.
Under the proposed revised condition, trash pick-up hours will be restricted during lunch (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) and dinner (5-7 p.m.) hours, according to the application. The restaurant would still be allowed to operate outside those hours.
(Correction: This story originally said the restaurant’s hours would be limited to lunch and dinner, but the proposed condition has since been clarified to FFXnow.)
Pollo Campero plans to demolish the existing auto repair structure on the site to build the new restaurant, which will have an outdoor dining area and a walk-up window for takeout orders. Items on the menu include fried chicken sandwiches, boneless wings, empanadas, and mashed potatoes.
After discussing the application last night (Monday), the Herndon Planning Commission is slated to vote on the trash collection request at its next public hearing on April 24.
Ever since Loudoun Composting closed its yard waste facility last June, the Town of Herndon has been on the look for a new regional partner to process its organic materials.
The facility has been owned by Prince William since 1994, and the composting portion is operated by a private company through a contract with the county.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors approved the agreement on Jan. 17. The county has similar agreements with Arlington and Fairfax counties.
“This is to essentially make it a more formal agreement,” said Tammy Chastain, deputy director of Herndon’s public works department.
Chastain said the town has been shifting its organic materials since July. The Loudoun facility closed because the property it was located on was sold.
The cost of the service will depend on the amount of yard waste picked up from residents, Chastain said. She noted that the cost of the Prince William facility is comparable to the cost of the Loudoun facility.
“Even though we go a little bit further, I think the cost is pretty darn close,” Chastain said.
(Updated at 2:05 p.m. on 2/28/2023) The contents of a truck that appears to have been carrying trash to the I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Road) included a dead body, police say.
A preliminary investigation found “no significant trauma” on the body, an FCPD spokesperson said.
“More details will be provided as the investigation continues,” police said.
Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau are conducting a death investigation in the 4600 blk of West Ox Rd after a body was found in a trailer used for transporting trash. More details will be provided as the investigation continues. #FCPD pic.twitter.com/YKe87jr0uZ
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) February 27, 2023
Residents served by Haulin’ Trash, the now-bankrupt private trash collector, will be allowed to use Fairfax County’s waste disposal facilities at no charge for the next month.
The Board of Supervisors moved yesterday to suspend charges for affected individuals who drop off their household trash and recycling at the county’s I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Road) and I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Road).
“I think everyone was caught off guard completely by this, and it has been difficult for many of the people affected to get a new contract in place,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said when introducing the board matter at yesterday’s meeting.
The facilities open at 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, though there are scheduled closures on Jan. 1 for New Year’s Day.
While most recyclable materials are accepted for free, they have fees for trash based on the type of material, volume, weight and number of bags used.
The fee waivers went into effect today and will continue until Jan. 1. A past bill from Haulin’ Trash must be presented for verification by on-site staff to get the discount.
Started in 2017 and based in Leesburg, Haulin’ Trash announced last week that it would permanently close on Dec. 1 after financial and staffing challenges reportedly resulted in lagging and missed collections.
Shared just hours following an earlier email that suggested the company was still trying to find a solution to its service issues, the news forced approximately 3,000 county residents to find a new hauler with essentially no warning.
The fee suspension is intended to hold over residents as they search for a new provider. Many community members had reported overflowing trash cans after Haulin’ Trash missed multiple pickups, the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services said.
A list of haulers licensed to operate in Fairfax County can be found on the DPWES website. Questions and complaints can be submitted to the county’s Consumer Affairs Branch by phone at 703-222-8435 or online.
“We are encouraging customers affected by this to sign up as quickly as possible with an alternate carrier in the area,” McKay said.
With trash collection issues proving to be an ongoing headache, county officials have started considering alternative approaches to providing services, which is handled by private companies for 90% of residents.
The Board of Supervisors adopted a legislative program for the General Assembly’s 2023 session calling for the state to give localities “additional authority to manage solid waste collection” and remove “onerous requirements” that limit the county’s ability to develop a different model.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) The service and staffing challenges plaguing trash collectors throughout Fairfax County have prompted one company to call it quits, leaving thousands of residents in limbo with little notice.
Haulin’ Trash LLC has permanently shuttered, informing customers by email Wednesday (Nov. 30) that it will cease operations effective yesterday.
“We have faced many challenges over the past several weeks that we simply cannot overcome. This decision has not only affected our customers but it has affected dozens of employees and their families,” owner Bobby Frazier said in the message, apologizing for the resulting inconvenience.
Frazier said that the “keys to the business” will transferred to a court-appointed trustee “over the next couple of weeks,” who will be in charge of giving out credits or refunds.
Started in 2017, the Leesburg-based company served around 3,000 customers in the county, including homeowners’ associations and 1,800 single-household customers, the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) says.
DPWES says its Solid Waste Management Program contacted Haulin’ Trash on Tuesday (Nov. 29) after receiving “a surge in resident complaints about missed collections.” The company told staff that it was “experiencing operational and financial difficulties,” but said it was looking at options to address the reported concerns, according to the county.
A day later, though, Haulin’ Trash notified the county that it had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and would close on Dec. 1. An email sent to customers on Nov. 30 said plans to “catch up” on missed collections proved impossible because it had only four trucks — half its fleet – available.
Shared with FFXnow today, the email has a timestamp of 4:29 p.m. The announcement that Haulin’ was permanently closing went out at 9:39 p.m. that same day. The company didn’t return a request for comment.
While sudden, the closure doesn’t appear to be a total surprise to Haulin’ customers. One told FFXnow that the company’s service “had degraded to almost nothing this month,” while an Oakton resident said it missed three consecutive pickups in their neighborhood in November.
“The delayed/missed pickups have caused trash/recycle bin(s) and yard waste bag(s) sit on the curbside/street for weeks,” the resident wrote in an anonymous tip. “As a result, the neighbor looks disorganized with unpleasant smell, trashes littering on street, in storm drainage, on lawn(s).” Read More
Fairfax County will ask the Virginia General Assembly for more authority to fix its trash troubles, as complaints about American Disposal Services continue.
At Tuesday’s (Oct. 18) legislative committee meeting, the Board of Supervisors once again dove into the persisting problems with trash pickups by the private, contracted collectors that serve about 90% of residents and almost all businesses in the county.
Throughout this year, the county has received many complaints about the contractors’ performance, especially American Disposal, which cut back on pickups this spring.
In late September, the county signed a consent agreement with the company. According to Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, the agreement obligates American Disposal to hire more drivers and customer service personnel, increase salaries, and credit customers for missed pick-ups, starting Jan. 1. It also imposes a $5,000 fine on the company.
Per Palchik’s newsletter, the contractor has until Dec. 31 to “make the necessary schedule modifications” and maintain adequate staff and equipment to resolve its service issues. Customers must be notified of any changes to their collections by that date as well.
FFXnow was unable to reach American Disposal for comment.
Meanwhile, the county is considering lobbying state lawmakers to ease restrictions on its ability to impose its own trash pick-up model.
“This surge in complaints, which account for approximately 86 percent of all waste collection complaints received by the County, has led to consideration of alternative solid waste management system models, and whether such alternatives could improve the quality and/or reliability of service delivery,” a staff report says.
One alternative would be to implement a franchising model, which Virginia law currently allows localities to do.
“Under a franchising model, the County would likely be divided into several different zones, and each zone would be served by a single collection company. Customers would pay for service based on County-negotiated rates,” the staff report notes.
However, the state code complicates the county’s ability to enact this model. Notably, if franchising ends up prohibiting a currently contracted company from continuing to service the county, the county either has to essentially wait five years to start franchising or pay the affected company a year’s worth of gross receipts.
“The code makes [franchising], quite frankly, impossible. It might as well be banned outright,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said Tuesday. “The five-year delayed implementation date, obviously, prevents anyone from doing it. That’s why no one in the Commonwealth has done it, to my knowledge.”
The code does have some exceptions, mainly for if a trash pick-up company is so inadequate at its job that it’s “threatening public health and safety” and is breaching the contract.
McKay asked the county legal team what would constitute a breach of contract, noting that an answer would probably have to come at a later date.
“Where do we think the line is where [it’s] threatening public health and safety?” McKay said. “[Are] we potentially getting near reaching that? If we have multiple consent agreements and trash laying out and it’s a public…health issue and they are obviously not fulfilling the agreement. It’s probably a pretty high bar, but we should know that if these problems persist.”
Per staff recommendation, the committee voted in support of asking the General Assembly to provide “flexibility” for a franchise model. This could mean wiping out or altering these “onerous requirements” to make it easier for the county to franchise trash service. Read More
The Town of Herndon hasn’t missed a single trash day during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite grappling with the same labor and supply issues as other jurisdictions.
Town Manager Bill Ashton admitted to the town council on Sept. 27 that he typically wouldn’t highlight uninterrupted trash service “as a badge of honor” in the town’s annual report for fiscal year 2022, which ran from July 1, 2021 to June 30 of this year.
However, with both larger localities and private collectors struggling with pickups over the past couple of years, Herndon sees its seamless trash and recycling service to 5,200 households and over 150 public sites as a genuine accomplishment.
“Our ability to get [commercially licensed drivers] behind the wheels of our trash trucks was a very difficult task this year,” Ashton said. “I will applaud [Director of Public Works] Scott Robinson and [Deputy Director] Tammy Chastain and the team for really taking a look at our organization and moving resources where they needed to be…to make sure this happened, and we didn’t miss a single day of trash throughout the pandemic and even through to today.”
From similarly uninterrupted water and sewer services to the police department closing 207 of 263 new criminal investigations, everything that the town did over the past year was accomplished with staffing levels around 85%, according to Ashton.
That figure doesn’t account for employees taking leave, including the “four to five people we had out on Covid almost every week,” he told the council.
Reflecting national labor challenges, Herndon saw record employee turnover due to both resignations and retirements in FY 2022, according to the annual report.
“Eleven employees retired in FY 2022, a higher pace than recent years and — due largely to pandemic-caused pressures — consistent with national measures,” the report says. “Total turnover of regular status employees increased by 53 percent in FY 2022.”
The town did manage to hire 141 employees, a 59% increase from the previous fiscal year and a number consistent with pre-pandemic levels. But it now takes three to six months to hire for a new position that once would’ve taken half that time, even with the addition of a human resources staffer dedicated to recruiting, Ashton said.
In some cases, staff compensated for the shortage of personnel by adapting services and programming, as was the case with the annual Herndon Festival’s downsizing into a carnival. A shortage of volunteer support and difficulties booking entertainers also contributed to the decision to modify the festival.
“Attendance was not as robust as in previous years, when a full festival was held, but it affirmed the community was willing to support a modified and, in this case, a lesser event,” Ashton said.
Council members praised staff for their work and willingness to reevaluate and improve how the town operates. The parks and recreation department, for instance, changed its quarterly events guide to one produced in-house every two months, allowing staff more flexibility while giving the community more up-to-date information.
“Staff had a difficult time providing this community with the quality levels of services they expect, but through resilience, agility, and creativity, we met our missions,” Ashton said.