On Oct. 1, Fairfax County announced it will no longer accept glass bottles and jars in curbside recycling bins.
The county decided to make the announcement after consulting with private recycling sorting centers and Covanta Fairfax, Inc., which operates the waste-to-energy plant. With the elimination of glass jars and containers from its single-stream curbside program, the county provided options for glass containers.
“Residents should reuse glass containers or bring them to purple, glass-only recycling containers located throughout the region. If this is not possible, glass should be placed in the trash,” said Fairfax County in its post.
Glass items not accepted included lamps, light bulbs, ceramics, porcelain, mirrors, windows and sheet glass.
Glass collected from the purple containers will be delivered to the only glass processing plant in the area, the I-95 landfill complex in Lorton.
When residents deliver used glass containers to purple, glass-only recycling containers, that glass is crushed and reused in county projects. Glass processed in Lorton is pulverized. It has been tested and reused in place of quarried gravel as bedding and fill in construction projects.
For years, most glass has passed through the recycling process as residue, or waste. Some of the glass is applied as landfill cover, an approved use by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, but most of it is simply landfilled with other unrecyclable waste.
Broken glass should be packaged into a rigid container, labeled and set out with trash for disposal. Intact glass windows, sliding doors, glass sheets and mirrors can be taken to the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex for disposal.
The county forewarned Feb. 15, 2019 that it was encountering many problems with glass in its single-stream recycling. When glass comingled with other materials in the County's single-stream recycling program, it often broke during truck collection and transport to material recovery centers. The broken glass mixed with other more valuable recycled items such as cardboard and metals and contaminated them, lowering their scrap value and making them more challenging to sell in the marketplace.
Compounding the problem, approximately two years ago, China, the largest consumer for recycled materials, imposed stricter import standards on the quality of recycled content it accepted. Also, the additional heavy weight of broken glass when intermixed with other recyclables presented extra costs when transporting the mixed materials. The broken, abrasive glass also damaged machinery.
Ten other states have created container deposit laws or so-called “bottle bills.” Under a bottle bill system, when you purchase a beverage container, you pay an additional deposit amount (usually 5 or 10 cents per container), which is added to the cost of the product. Once the product has been consumed, you take the empty container to a redemption center where you receive your deposit back.
Locations of Purple Glass Only Drop-Off Bins in Northern Virginia
Fairfax County I-66 Transfer Station
Fairfax County Recycling and Disposal Center
Mount Vernon District Governmental Center
Springfield District Governmental Center
Mason District Governmental Center
Sully District Governmental Center
Providence Community Center
Franconia Governmental Center
Fairfax County Government Center – Lot B
Reston South Park and Ride
Dolley Madison Library
City of Alexandria
South Royal Street & Jones Point Drive
4251 Eisenhower Ave
3224 Colvin St
Tower Court & South Whiting Street
2800 S Taylor St
Aurora Hills Recreation Center
Cherrydale Branch Library
Lee Community Center