Solid Waste Rules Aim To Rev Up Recycling

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fairfax County officials hope to increase recycling and improve customer service by private haulers under measures adopted by the Board of Supervisors last week.

The changes carry no new regulatory power. They are intended to prod corporations, apartment house owners and single-family-home dwellers to take a more expansive view of what can be recycled.

The new rules give apartment house owners a year to provide recycling opportunities for tenants, including separate containers for glass, plastic bottles, beverage cartons and paper.

Many apartment complexes already provide recycling facilities, but officials say they want to ensure that the many new communities springing up also comply.

"Fairfax County is an urban county, and we're moving towards a lot of multifamily dwelling units," said Jeffrey M. Smithberger, director of solid waste collection and recycling for the county's Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.

Offices that do not recycle also have a year to comply.

"We're asking that all businesses at least recycle paper," Smithberger said. The changes in the code also include a more detailed definition of paper that includes cardboard, magazines, catalogues, envelopes, office paper, junk mail, food and shoe boxes and other paper products without food residue.

Smithberger said that the county's ability to enforce the regulations is limited to "spot inspection" of selected buildings and neighborhoods. Fines are limited to $500.

William D. Lecos, president of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, chaired a county task force that studied solid waste policy. He said the new rules "won't be at all disconcerting to the commercial office community. Most firms are already recycling."

The additions to the code are designed to help the county comply with state requirements to divert more of its solid waste into recycled material over the next 20 years.

Most of the county's 360,000 households arrange for trash and recycling collection with one of 23 private haulers, either directly or through homeowners associations. About 42,000 homes in sanitary districts are served directly by the county.

The revamped rules establish minimum customer service standards for hauling companies, which have drawn some complaints for missed pickups and noisy or polluting trucks. For example, collectors must now give customers 30 days' written notice of rate increases or any other significant changes in service.

"It's so that everybody understands what the expectations are," said Joyce M. Doughty, director of solid waste disposal and resource recovery for the public works department.

Lecos said that some big haulers have been through turbulent times with mergers and consolidations but that service is improving.

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