Solid Waste and Recycling

The Northern Virginia Waste Management Board

Although Northern Virginia jurisdictions manage solid waste and recycling programs independently, NERC Supporting Member Badge 2021they collaborate on common regional concerns through the Northern Virginia Waste Management Board, staffed by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission. The Northern Virginia Waste Management Board, composed of solid waste managers and public works directors from each of NVRC’s member jurisdictions, was created in 1989 to promote regional approaches and solutions to recycling and waste management issues in Northern Virginia.

While Northern Virginia’s jurisdictions manage solid waste and recycling programs independently, they also collaborate on common regional concerns through the Northern Virginia Waste Management Board.  The Waste Board focuses its efforts on initiatives such as: 

Regional Message on Waste Management and COVID-19

Media Release 

What to do? Minimize waste

Northern Virginia Jurisdictions strongly urge residents to minimize waste:

  • Do not set extra bags outside the cart.
  • Keep your spring-cleaning pile in the basement, attic or garage for now.
  • Flatten cardboard boxes to create more room in the recycling cart
  • Grass cycle lawn clippings.
  • Make sure all trash is in a bag and bags are securely closed.
  • No plastic bags in recycling, make sure recyclables are empty, clean and dry. Check with your county, city or town for what to include in recycling.
  • Dispose of used wipes, tissues, and paper towels in trash bags that are tied shut and place inside trash containers for disposal. Never dispose of disposable wipes, paper towels, rags and similar items in the toiletthese items damage sewer systems to the point of system failures and potential backups.
  • Don’t litter—when outside the home, properly dispose of masks, gloves, wipes and other items in the trash.

Keep Our Workers and Communities Safe!

In Northern Virginia, local governments manage residential trash, recycling, and yard waste independently, but share disposal facilities. These facilities are now operating at close to capacity and struggling with labor shortages. With stay-at-home orders in place, jurisdictions are facing unusual increases in the amount of trash and recycling generated, leading to greater safety risks to collection workers and overburdening waste and recycling systems. Our region is not alone. This is a national trend and some regions of the country have experienced the closure of waste and recycling facilities. Our collection crews are critical to civic life and they work daily on the front lines to manage and handle recycling and trash. 

Curbside trash and recycling collection are vital to community health and safety. During this difficult time, waste managers are committed to doing what we can to continue to provide this essential service. Beginning in mid-March, residential trash tonnage increased by up to 40% as residents began staying at home to help combat COVID-19. This increase in trash left for pickup is causing a strain on our waste management systems. Litter has increased in parks, trails, and parking lots, including gloves, masks, wipes, and other discarded protective equipment. These items pose a risk to storm water systems, waterways and wildlife.

Every morning, collection crews are reporting to work while facing the same life challenges as residents. To help ensure crew health and safety as well as daily completion of routes, Northern Virginia counties, towns, and cities ask residents to please follow these guidelines so we can ensure the viability of the region’s collection programs.


Fall 2020 Webinars

Implementing the New Plastic Bag Tax Webinar held October 6, 2020

This webinar offered a chance for Virginia localities and interested people to understand what the new Plastic Bag Tax means for them, identify lessons learned and develop questions for the Virginia Tax commission in its public comment period as the new law is implemented. 

HB 534 passed in the 2020 Virginia Legislative Session, authorizing any locality to impose a tax of five cents per bag on disposable plastic bags provided to consumers by certain retailers, with certain bags being exempt from the tax. Revenues from the local tax would be collected by the Tax Commissioner and distributed monthly to the locality imposing the tax to be used by such locality for the mitigation of pollution and litter.

In preparation for new guidance and regulatory implementation by the Virginia Tax Commissioner, Northern Virginia Waste Management Board offered a webinar to learn lessons from the District of Columbia, which has had a bag tax in place for several years.  Join Lillian Power, Environmental Protection Specialist from the District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment for an overview of compliance, enforcement, education and recent COVID-19 challenges. The DC slides can be reviewed here.

Video of Webinar

Policy Call with Legislators October 20

Northern Virginia Waste Management Board is pleased to host Senator Favola and Delegate Gooditis to discuss recent and planned solid waste and recycling related legislation, and share challenges and policy recommendations from the Waste Board.  Contact for more information.

Purple Can Club: A Solution to Difficult Materials

In light of recent years’ poor markets, the contamination and disposal of curbside recycled materials reaching approximately 30 percent, and the fact that glass, an infinitely recyclable material, remains as a residue from commercial curbside programs, Northern Virginia jurisdictions have piloted a glass diversion drop off program.

Fairfax County is operating glass crushing and cleaning equipment to process glass collected in the region’s Purple Can Club, so named for the distinctive color of the drop-off containers used in the system. The Purple Can Club was founded by Fairfax County, with drop-off containers located in all of the jurisdictions in and surrounding the county (e.g., Arlington County, Prince William County, Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church). Most of the recovered glass is clean enough to be marketed directly to glass beneficiates, who in turn supply glass cullet to manufacturers’ which make bottles, glass fiberglass, and other high-end glass product manufacturers. Crushed product is also used locally for a variety of construction applications, as well as for use as filter media and aesthetic applications. The current participants include Arlington County, City of Alexandria, Fairfax County, Prince William County, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church, City of Fredericksburg, Town of Herndon, Town of Vienna, Stafford County, and Loudoun County.

Purple Can Club Increases Glass Recovery 

Locations for Purple Can Club Now Expanded to Loudoun and Stafford Counties