By the time 1978 is over, the Washington metropolitan area will have cast off about 1.7 million tons of paper, plastic, garbage, cans, bottles and other residential, commercial and industrial solid waste.

That estimate, provided by Trevis Markle, an environmental planner at the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments, doesn't include construction rubble or heavy, non-incinerable solid waste.

While most of the area's trash is destined to end up in costly and limited landfills, some of it will be recycled. There has been a "tremendous increase" in recycling efforts around the country since 1970, according to Neil Seldman, director of waste utilization at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Although most of the estimated 3,000 drop-off recycling centers that sprang up in the United States from 1970 to 1973 have now disappeared, Seldman said, they are being replaced by pick-up services for recyclable goods.

Usually, recyclable materials are delivered directly to mills or plants or are sold to middlemen. When the materials are sold to middlemen, the paper is shredded and bailed and metal is shredded and compacted. The items are then sold to manufacturers.

Manufacturers sometimes make new products from recycled materials. Other times, the recycled materials are mixed with virgin materials. The materials don't always come back in their original form. While newspapers can be recycled as newsprint, they also can return as cellulose insulation or other products. Glass can be used for many different products, such as bottles, pipe, cement, or road construction materials. Some rubber tires can be retreaded, and other tires are mixed with asphalt for roads.

Manufacturers want recycled materials, Seldman said, because "it's cheaper to use secondary materials than virgin materials." Producing aluminum products from recycled aluminum takes 5 percent of the energy it would take if new materials were used, Seldman said. In making paper products from recycled paper, 30 percent of the energy is saved; in steel, 74 percent of the energy is saved, and in glass, the savings is about 25 percent, he said.

The following guide to some recycling facilities in the area shows what Northern Virginia and some organizations are doing to recycle some of the area's solid waste. The guide includes information on how to go about getting rid of bulky household items such as refrigerators, stoves and furniture.

ALEXANDRIA has been operating its own recycling center at the Eisenhower Incinerator since 1974. Newspapers, aluminum and metal cans, and white, brown and green glass can be dropped off from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The center is operated by the city Department of Transportation and Environmental Services at 5301 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria.

In addition, seven unmanned drop-off centers which operate 24 hours a day are located throughout the city where people can bring items to be recycled. Alexandria also operates a drop-off center for Arlington. The centers are at 4127 Mount Vernon Ave., Arlandria (at Four Mile Run; 333 S. Whiting St., West Alexandria (in the 7-11 Store parking lot); 400 S. Henry St., Alexandria; 4600 Duke St. Alexandria; 1400 Radford St. Alexandria (between Braddock Road and Osage Street); 5300 Dawes Ave., Alexandria (at the Coca-Cola plant; 5100 Dawes Ave., Alexandria (in Cameron Station, near building T-20), and at the Cherrydale Shopping Center, 3700 block of Lee Highway in Arlington County.

Newspapers should be separated from other items. Aluminum and metal cans can be mixed, but paper labels should be taken off. Bottles should be separated by color, and it's helpful to take off aluminum rings around the necks. Directions for disposing of all items are posted at all of the drop-off centers.

Alexandria also has a special newspaper collection program on city-operated refuse routes. Residents are asked to put out their newspapers separately with their trash every other week.

To dispose of refrigerators, stoves, screen doors, hot water heaters, dishwashers and other bulky items, call 751-5130 for a special pick-up, and the city will take them away at no charge. For larger items such as old cars, the city refers people to a salvage company.

ARLINGTON COUNTY - There is an unmanned 24-hour drop-off center for newspapers, aluminum and metal cans, white, green and brown glass at the Cherrydale Shopping Center, in the 3700 block of Lee Highway in Arlington County. The drop-off point is operated by the City of Alexandria.

Arlington County has no special newspaper pickup. Single- or two-family households can arrange for pickup of large items such as refrigerators, stoves or furniture by calling 558-2321. Calls must be made at least one day before the regular trash pickup and the items must be put by the curb the day of regular weekly trash pickup.

FAIRFAX COUNTY - The county operates a 24-hour drop-off center for paper, brown, white and green glass, aluminum and tin cans. It is located at the I-66 Sanitary Landfill on West Ox Road, between Route 29-211 and Route 50, just west of Fairfax City.

A newspaper recycling program is operated by county schools in cooperation with the county division of solid waste. Bundled newspapers can be dropped off 24 hours a day at the following schools, where containers are available: Key Intermediate, 6402 Franconia Rd., Springfield; Lake Braddock Intermediate, 9200 Burke Lake Rd., Burke; Edgar Allan Poe Intermediate, 7000 Cindy La., Annandale; Robert Frost Intermediate, 4101 Pickett Rd., Fairfax; Mark Twain Intermediate, 4700 Franconia Rd., Alexandria, and Luther Jackson Intermediate, 3020 Gallows Rd., Falls Church.

Bulky household items such as refrigerators, stoves, water heaters, and furniture can be picked up from residence in the county refuse collection area. Special collections usually take place on the regular trash pickup day. Call 339-5600 at least one day before the regular trash pickup day to arrange for a special pickup.

Used automobile oil is recycled in Fairfax County through a program set up by the county and the Northern Virginia Gasoline Retailers Association. The oil should be put into plastic containers with tops and can be brought to participating service stations in the county during regular operating hours.

Service stations which participate usually display a sign which says, "Fairfax County Used Oil Recycling Program - Participating Station." Some of the signs have come down, however, so it's a good idea to ask.

FAIRFAX CITY - Special newspaper pickups are available and the city operates a newspaper recycling collection center.

Newspapers are picked up two Tuesdays a month from all residences. Residents must bundle the newspapers and place them at the curb.

The city also operates a drop-off collection center for newspapers on Pickett Road across from the City Property Yard, near Fairfax Circle. It is open 24 hours a day.

Old appliances, furniture and other bulky items are picked up on the residents' regular trash collection day.

FALLS CHURCH - The city has been recycling newspapers for about five years. There is a special newspaper pickup for residents on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month. The papers must be tied or put in a paper bag before they are put out on the curb.

Bulky household items such as refrigerators, stoves or old furniture are picked up by the city each Wednesday, unless a holiday falls during the week. To arrange for the special pickup, residents should call 241-5080 one day in advance. The items must be placed by the curb, and be no longer than two people could handle.

LOUDOUN COUNTY - Two drop-off sites are operated by a group called ECHO. Every Citizen Has An Opportunity, a sheltered workshop for the retarded. Proceeds go to the non-profit organization.

A 24-hour drop-off site for newspapers is located in the Air Photography parking lot in Purcellville, Va.

A 24-hour drop-off site for newspapers, blue, brown, green and white glass,aluminum, cardboard and cloth is located in the parking lot of the Virginia Village Shopping Center at South Catoctin Circle in Leesburg.

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY - The county operates a drop-off site for any type of metal at the Prince William County sanitary landfill, located at routes 234 and 619, just south of Independent Hill. County residents can drop off items 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

The county does not remove bulky household items such as refrigerators, stoves or furniture, but residents can take those things to the county landfill.

Some private organizations which are involved in recycling programs are:

the NATIONAL BLACK VETERANS ORGANIZATION has organized a major recycling effort in the District, and is developing systems throughout the metropolitan area for a comprehensive recycling operation.

The veterans operate a public drop-off collection center for paper and aluminum at 629 F St. NW from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The group is planning to open several additional public drop-off collection points in the District soon. It also makes pick-ups at 48 private points throughout the city.

The organization cannot make pickups from individuals, but it assists groups in establishing their own recycling collection centers.

The veterans also can help groups with paper and aluminum drives. The veterans organization will provide educational and publicity campaigns for these groups, make marketing agreements and provide collection services. People interested in organizing a pick-up point for their own groups can call Patricia Ferrand or Charles Rooks at 638-2399.

A substantial share of the materials collected by the National Black Veterans Organization are donated by those who support the aims of the program. The group's aims are to promote conservation of energy and resources and to create a fund for the unsubsidized employment of veterans.

For groups or individuals who want to recycle for fundraising purposes, NBVO pays current market prices for loose newspapers and newspapers tied or stored in brown paper grocery bags. It is not practical for the group to pick up small quantities of paper. They must plan to acquire at least 300 to 500 pounds per stop. (An average household can easily save 50 pounds of paper per month, they say.)

Aluminum cans, in any quantity, are worth 17 cents a pound when brought to 629 F St. NW or when collected by NBVO in quantities of 1,000 pounds or more. When the veterans group provides collection service for less than 1,000 pounds, but more than 500 pounds, payment is 15 cents per pound. For less than 500 pounds, payment is 12 cents per pound. (Prices are subject to change depending on current market value).

The ALUMINUM ASSOCIATION, INC. operates a 24-hour toll-free telephone service to inform callers of the nearest all-aluminum can collection center. The toll-free number is 800-223-6830. The collection centers are normally manned with attendants who will weigh cans and pay for them. Call first for operating hours.

REYNOLDS ALUMINUM RECYCLING CO. sends two mobile recycling units out daily to shopping centers in the District, Northern Virginia, and Maryland pick up aluminum. The company pays 17 cents per pound on the spot for all types of aluminum, including cans, siding, foil, scrap aluminum and other types (except for aluminum castings, such as lawn mower engines).

Scraps should be broken down so they are no longer than three feet in length and should be bundled with rope or twine. Cans should be put in bags, which are supplied at the mobile unit stops.

To find out when a mobile unit will be visiting your area, call (toll free) 800-243-6000. Aluminum can be dropped off and sold at the Reynolds Recycling Center at 9730-A George Palmer Highway, Lanham, Md. from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

KING WHOLESALE INC., buys all-aluminum cans and clean household aluminum such as ple plates, aluminum foll and frozen food containers. The firm is at 3159 Draper Dr., Fairfax City, and is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Its current price for aluminum is 15 cents per pound. Call 591-3300.

J. FICK INC. - All-aluminum cans are purchased for 15 cents per pound, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, on Rte. 1, Boswell's Corner, Stafford, Va. Call (703) 221-2113 for information.

FIRESTONE TIRE AND RUBBER CO. pays $1 each for old tires which are worn but in good condition.

Although the nearest Firestone tire recycling drop-off center is in Baltimore, the company can make arrangements to have a truck available at a local Firestone store if there is enough interest by clubs or organizations.

Organizations wishing to participate in the program must first register with Firestone headquarters in Akron, Ohion, to obtain full details. Registration inquiries should be sent to E.K. Henry. Manager of Retread Manufacturing, Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 1200 Firestone Parkway, Akron, Oho 44317.

If you just want to drive to Baltimore and sell fewer than 20 tires, they can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2915 Whittington Ave., Baltimore. If you bring in fewer than 20 tires, they will be inspected on the spot to make sure they are retreadable, and then payment will be made.