Some Alexandria residents scheduled for a Thursday curbside recycling pickup had their bins collected today due to a post-holiday rush at the place where the recycling is dropped off.

“The City of Alexandria is experiencing temporary curbside recycling service delays due to heavy volumes and wait times at the recycling facility following the holidays,” the city said via email Thursday. “The delays may affect some customers who have curbside recycling collection scheduled for today.”

“Customers whose recycling was not collected today will receive pickup service [Friday],” the city said.

Separately, Alexandria’s Dept. of Transportation & Environmental Services is reminding residents that curbside Christmas tree pickup will start next Thursday, Jan. 2.

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Last week it was announced that Alexandria would follow in the footsteps of neighboring jurisdictions in discontinuing curbside glass collection in recycling bins.

Glass will still be recycled and reused, but only if you drop it off at a designated collection bin. Otherwise, starting Jan. 15 glass will go into the trash and wind up where it had been going anyhow, since China closed its doors to the world’s refuse and the market for glass recycling evaporated: a landfill.

On Twitter, Mayor Justin Wilson pushed back on the suggestion that there is much the city could do to keep recycling curbside-collected glass, given the realities of the recycling market in the U.S., but left open the possibility of restoring curbside glass recycling in the future.

Part of the problem with collecting glass in curbside bins with other recyclables is that sorting it is difficult, compounded by the fact that glass shatters, contaminating the other recyclable materials. That raises the costs of recycling overall. Plus, recycling glass into new bottles and glass products is one of the least efficient and environmentally-positive forms of recycling, limiting the upside.

There are, however, options for reusing and recycling glass. Glass bottles could be collected, washed and reused, though that also has tradeoffs. Glass can be crushed and turned into construction material — as the city is doing with the drop-off bins. And glass that’s collected by itself in glass-only curbside bins is more viable for recycling — though that comes with increased collection costs and is less convenient for residents.

Do you agree or disagree with the city’s glass recycling decision and, if given the option, would you pay more to have glass recycled in the future?

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(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Alexandria will no longer collect glass curbside for recycling, starting next year.

Starting Jan. 15, if you’re hoping to get your glass recycled rather than just tossed out with the trash, you’ll have to take it down to the purple bins at one of four facilities in southern Alexandria.

According to the city, glass recycling can be dropped off at:

Only glass bottles and jars — of any color — can be dropped off, though they have to be emptied and rinsed first. The change reflects the reality that single-stream recycling of glass is no longer feasible from an economic and environmental standpoint.

“Currently, glass collected for recycling by our contractors is ending up in landfills due to a variety of issues, including recycling contamination, rising recycling costs, and lack of a regional glass processing capacity,” the city said.

For residents who don’t want to take a trip to the big bins, glass should be tossed out in the trash starting Jan. 15.

After China stopped accepting some recyclable materials from the United States, the cost of recycling in the United States skyrocketed and left localities nationwide grappling with what to do with costly waste.

Alexandria is just the latest locality to ditch glass. Arlington County eliminated glass recycling in April, though like Alexandria several locations were designated as drop-off locations to be sent to Fairfax County, where the glass is crushed and used in road and other projects. Prior to the change, Arlington said, glass placed in curbside recycling bins was just being sorted and ultimately sent to landfills — not recycled.

According to the city website:

The City is actively monitoring the market for a viable option to recycle glass and working with our neighbors to propose and advocate for innovative solutions. While glass is still accepted in the blue recycling bin, the City has partnered with Fairfax County and established four drop-off centers to improve the recyclability of glass. Glass separated at these centers will be hauled to a processing plant in Fairfax County to be recycled into gravel and sand that can be used locally. These end products can be used in landscaping, construction projects, and even remanufactured into new glass items.

On Twitter, some residents were upset with the announcement from Mayor Justin Wilson last night, though the mayor pushed back on the assertion that Alexandria can do much to solve the larger glass recycling problem. Still, curbside glass collection could eventually be restored, Wilson said.

Photo via City of Alexandria

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