Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Have you checked around your home for mosquito incubators? This rainy, and then hot, weather is the perfect recipe for hatching mosquitos. Even a small amount of undisturbed water can provide a nursery for mosquito eggs that hatch in less than a week. Last weekend, I was surprised to find water in a small depression in the plastic bag holding potting soil on our deck. The water spot was covered by a tulip poplar leaf, but it was easy to tip over the bag so that the water ran off. Planter saucers, outdoor toys, old tires, a tarp over lawn equipment – all can harbor enough water to create your own personal supply of biters. Mosquitos don’t fly far, so the next warm summer evening you go outside to watch the fireflies, so prolific right now, please take a few minutes to “tip and toss” the water in all those hiding places. Keep tipping and tossing, right up to the first freeze in November. Fight the Bite! Tip and Toss!

Trash collection and recycling programs are frustrating many neighborhoods in Mason District, and Fairfax County, as private haulers struggle with an industry-wide problem: a lot of trash and recyclables, and not enough personnel to do the scheduled pickups. Private haulers operating in Fairfax County must adhere to the county’s Solid Waste Ordinance and, last month, American Disposal Services (ADS), which serves about 120,000 households, entered into a consent agreement with Fairfax County to address both short term and long term issues. Improving communication with their customers and the county, extending pick up hours, and providing credits for missed or delayed service are among the issues that were identified in the agreement.

Based on more recent complaints to my office, and personal experience, it seems that Republic Services/AAA Trash Service is having similar issues, with trash and recycling schedules missed, robocalls to customers that promise pickup on another day, and then missing that reschedule, too. It’s no fun to drag trash and recycling containers down the driveway in expectation of a pickup, and find that everything still is there when you get home from work. Constituents and customers are angry. Is Republic listening?

A recent presentation to the Board’s Environment Committee revealed that recycling rates are stable in Fairfax County, but residents may be confused about what to put in the recycle bin. County staff did their own “recycle sort,” measuring items in recycling collection bins for one day, with the result that 27 percent was mixed paper, 22 percent was cardboard, and about 11 percent was plastic and metals. Disappointing was that fully one-third of the recycled materials actually was trash and glass, which needed to be disposed as trash, not recyclables. Dirty diapers are not recyclable! Neither are takeout containers, cups, hangers, cords, and hoses. Some dry cleaners will take back hangers in good shape. Single use plastic bags can be recycled at grocery stores. Although sheets of paper can go in your recycle bin, already shredded paper cannot. Broken glass contaminates paper and anything else in the bin, but Fairfax County soon will have some “purple can” locations where you can recycle glass bottles. Stay tuned…