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Christmas tree at ALXnow editor’s new apartment (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Your Christmas tree is beautiful and it can stay up for a few more days, but as it starts getting closer to January, it might be time to start thinking about how to get rid of it.

Tree removal is usually a touchy subject in Alexandria, but Christmas tree removal is fortunately a little easier for anyone in Alexandria that gets trash removal via the city.

According to the city’s website:

Christmas trees can be recycled curbside by residents who receive trash collection services from the City. Trees should be set at your regular yard waste collection point, on your trash collection day. Trees collected during this time will be ground into mulch and available to residents in the spring.

To prepare trees for collection, the city said to:

  • Remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights, and stands
  • Do not place in plastic bags
  • Place the tree at your regular yard waste collection point by 6:00 a.m. on your trash collection day

The tree collection program runs from Tuesday, Jan. 2 to Wednesday, Jan. 31 — so don’t set those trees out just yet.

Most Alexandrians are renters, however, not homeowners. There: it’s trickier, and the city said the property’s owner should have more information on where to dispose of trees.

“If you or your building uses a private trash services, please check with your trash hauler for instructions on disposal of natural and artificial Christmas trees,” the city’s website said.

If that doesn’t work, ALXnow cannot recommend leaving your Christmas tree at a property where refuse is being collected that day.

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Composting (image via Lenka Dzurendova/Unsplash)

The City of Alexandria wants your trash.

Specifically, Alexandria wants your food waste. The city put out a call yesterday for residents who receive City trash and recycling services to register for a new Curbside Food Waste Composting Pilot that launched earlier this year. The goal of the program is to reduce and compost food waste, generate finished compost, and promote sustainability.

“Back in spring of 2023, the City of Alexandria was selected by the USDA as one of the 2023 Composting and Food Waste Reduction Cooperative Agreement recipients,” the City of Alexandria said in a release. “With this federal funding support, the City has been piloting a food waste composting program for residents receiving City trash and recycling services.”

The pilot involves 12 months of composting services for free, along with an air-tight 7-gallon cart and 40 compostable bags.

According to the city’s website:

Selected participants will separate food waste from trash, just as we already do with our recyclables, and leave the composting bin by the curb on the designated day of the week. The City contracts with Compost Crew to manage the program, who will provide weekly collection services along with addressing issues such as delivery of the containers and missed collections. Each household can request on Compost Crew’s customer portal for a complimentary bag of finished compost if desired, once a year.

The release said the pilot involves composting food waste at the curb every week.

Registration for the pilot is available online to residents. Up to 2,000 residents will be selected as part of the pilot.

Image via Lenka Dzurendova/Unsplash

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If you typically leave your trash out on Monday, you might want to leave it inside another day.

While New Year’s Day is on Sunday, the holiday is also observed on Monday. As such, recycling, trash, and yard collection next week will “slide” back one day.

Mondays collection will be on Tuesday, Tuesday’s collection on Wednesday, and so on.

The household Hazardous Waste Electronic Collection Drop-off Center (3224 Colvin Street) will be open on Saturday, Dec. 31, but will be closed on Monday, Jan. 2.

Given that it’s the week after Christmas, some locals are still probably figuring out what to do with their trees.

Natural Christmas trees can be set out for collection between Tuesday, Jan. 3, through Tuesday, Jan. 31.

According to the city website, to prepare trees for collection:

  • Remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights and stands.
  • Do not place in plastic bags.
  • Place the tree at your regular yard waste collection point by 6:00 a.m. on your trash collection day.

Artificial trees can be set out next to trash containers on collection day.

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Electric refuse truck (via Alexandria Transportation & Environmental Services/Twitter)

(Updated 4:25 p.m.) When trash pick-up comes around, it might be a little quieter than usual.

Alexandria’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES) said the city is testing out new electric trash trucks.

“This week, our crews are test-driving electric refuse trucks,” the department said on Twitter. “They’re quieter and deliver pollution reduction benefits”

Right now, city staff is test-driving one electric refuse truck for a week to better understand how it could be used in the city, Director of T&ES Yon Lambert tells ALXnow.

“The electric refuse truck is ideal for urban areas like ours because we take garbage collection to a local waste-to-energy facility, versus a landfill that would require a longer trip,” Lambert said. “Staff in the City’s Fleet Management Division of Transportation & Environmental Services is responsible for the maintenance of the truck, including charging it overnight, while a team from Resource Recovery is responsible for using it on routes to collect household garbage.”

The plan, according to Lambert, is to spend the week test driving the truck to gauge how it could be used to help reduce emissions and fuel consumption.

Lambert said the switch is part of a broader effort to the city’s roughly 800-vehicle fleet more sustainable. These vehicles are used in everything from household garbage collection to construction site inspections.

T&ES isn’t the first city service to venture into electric vehicles. City bus service DASH has been working toward adding 20 electric buses to its fleet — in addition to the 14 already in service — by 2025. The program has hit some stumbling blocks, though, like challenges with hilly terrain and cold weather.

“Our team will monitor how the refuse truck performs while it’s on collection routes this week,” Lambert said. “I believe that over time, we will do our due diligence and record data for this. These manufacturers have solid records of having reliable trucks available.”

Lambert said the truck is being tested as part of a week-long demo by truck company Mack at no cost to the city.

“We are exploring ways to build sustainability and resiliency to protect our City and environment now and for the next generation,” Lambert said. “This test drive will help the City gauge if this is a way we can continue working toward our sustainability goals. If the electric refuse truck is a viable option for us, it could be considered in a future year budget process.”

Lambert says he believes Alexandria is the first municipality in Northern Virginia to test drive an electric refuse truck.

“We hope this inspires other municipalities to also consider sustainability options,” he said.

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The Covanta Waste-to-Energy facility at the west end of Eisenhower Avenue has recently completed an overhaul that should make it less of a polluter.

The facility serves 400,000 residents and businesses in Alexandria and Arlington, the city said in a release. It incinerates household waste and generates steam for electricity production.

“In this way, Covanta processes and converts more than 350,000 tons of waste into energy,” the release said. “This waste would otherwise end up in landfills.”

But obviously, waste incineration has its own considerably negative environmental impact. The city’s release said new technology at the site has reduced the facility’s nitrogen oxide emissions by  50%:

With installation of its proprietary Low NOx (LN) technology now complete, nitrogen oxide emissions have been reduced by nearly 50%. The effort was part of a multi-year project at the Covanta Alexandria-Arlington Facility. By reducing the waste put in landfills, Covanta Alexandria has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 331,000 tons of carbon dioxide. That’s the same as taking 65,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.

The facility generated enough energy to power 15,000 homes year-round and recovers 11,000 tons of metal annually.

“Covanta is proud to manage our services and facilities in a way that prioritizes our communities, our businesses and our planet,” Covanta area asset manager Don Cammarata said in the release. “Today marks an important step in our work with the community to reduce our environmental impact and improve air quality.”

“The installation of this new NOx technology will even further reduce the emissions and improve air quality,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in the release. “This is an important effort to support the City of Alexandria in reaching our Environmental Action Plan 2040 goals.”

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The trash situation is changing in Alexandria, as City leaders are ironing out a new curbside food waste collection pilot.

Mayor Justin Wilson’s proposal for the one-year pilot would see annual residential and commercial refuse collection fees increase from $484 to $500 citywide, or $1.33 a month.

“We’ll see how the pilot goes,” Wilson told ALXnow. “Falls Church uses a vendor and they actually have the vendor charge residents directly who want the collection. It may end up we go with that model instead of providing universal collection. We’ll see how much support there is for this.”

A $315,000 allocation would fund the new curbside food waste collection pilot program, as well as expand the city’s food waste drop-off composting program in spots designated by City Manager Jim Parajon.

If approved by Council as an addition in Parajon’s fiscal year 2023 budget, 600 residents over six months (potentially up to 2,500 over the full year) would be delivered a 5-gallon bucket to fill up with food waste. The trash would be picked up for composting on a designated collection day.

The City anticipates that the pilot program could begin no later than late fall.

Alexandria communications officer Andrea Blackford said that evaluating the feasibility of curbside organics supports the City’s WasteSmart Strategic Plan and Environmental Action Plan.

“Food waste such as fruit and vegetable scraps; expired bread, pasta, rice, grains and cereal; and egg shells and coffee grounds would be collected and processed into nutrient-rich compost, a natural soil amendment,” Blackford said. “This pilot aims to evaluate expansion of composting options in the City.”

City residents currently get weekly yard waste collections that are composted or turned into mulch, in addition to four free food waste composting stations at farmers’ markets on weekends.

If approved, residents should expect to be be notified of the pilot on the City website, social media and eNews.

“Sign up for the pilot program will be first-come, first-served, based on expressions of interest collected through a simple electronic survey,” Blackford said. “In this pilot, we will consider prioritization for customers who may have transportation/access and accessibility/disability barriers to participating in the existing food waste drop-off program at farmers’ markets.”

Wilson said the program reduces trash volume, and that City is exploring new locations for food waste collection spots in Old Town North and the West End.

“Dong so is not only great for the environment, it reduces our trash volume by diverting food waste from our regular trash collection,” he said.

The budget will be adopted on May 4.

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Trash pickup and yard waste collection has been delayed today (Monday) due to staffing shortages and will resume tomorrow, according to the city.

“Trash and yard waste will continue to be collected but collection schedules and efficiency will be impacted,” a city alert states.

The alert says residents should leave their trash and yard waste out if it was not collected on its assigned day so that it can be picked up on the following day. If it still is not collected, residents should submit a ticket online or call Alex 311.

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Trash and recycling collection has been suspended for the rest of the week as the city prepares for potential snow tonight just days after Monday’s snowstorm.

The city has previously said trash collection days would operate a day or two behind schedule, but a press release from the City of Alexandria today noted that the city is dealing with a perfect storm of issues hindering trash-recovery operations.

“Due to staffing shortages caused by COVID-19, safety issues related to the forecasted overnight snow and to prioritize resources to prepare for and respond to the inclement weather, curbside recycling, trash, yard waste and Christmas tree collection will not take place this week,” the city said in the release. “There will be no sliding of routes and days as previously communicated. Collection crews will be mobilized tonight and tomorrow to support and respond to the forecasted snow tomorrow.”

The city asked that residents hold their trash until collection resumes next week, but for urgent disposals, the city said residents can drop off small amounts of trash free-of-charge at the COVANTA Waste-to-Energy Facility (5301 Eisenhower Ave.) Monday through Friday from 6 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday from 6 a.m.-11:30 a.m. The city noted those hours could change based on weather conditions.

“City crews continue to respond to tree and brush damage due to Monday’s storm,” the release said. “The City has added arborist contractor resources and is adding bulk yard waste collection resources to assist in the collection of tree and brush. City refuse collection customers who need tree and brush collection will be able to submit a request via Alex311. Items must be properly prepared for collection to be picked up by City crews.”

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Morning Notes

Bondsman in Karla Dominguez case charged — “The bail bondsman in the Karla Dominguez murder case has been charged with criminal contempt of court and faces trial in January in the Alexandria Circuit Court.” [Alexandria Times]

Yard waste collection shifts to today — “Yard Waste collection… will be collected Friday, October 8. Please accept our apologies for any inconveniences caused by this temporary suspension.” [Alexandria T&ES]

Old Town Oyster Festival next weekend — “Join Old Town Business Association for this year’s Old Town Oyster Festival October 16th-24th in partnership with the Oyster Recovery Foundation and sponsored by Guinness. Come on out for the Oyster Shucking Competition to kick off a week of Oyster and Guinness specials! The Shucking Competition, set to live music from Driven to Clarity, will take place Vola’s Airstream Patio on Saturday, October 16th 2021 at 10 a.m.” [Visit Alexandria]

IDA showcases update on Potomac Yard HQ construction — “Watch the Eye on IDA video with Dean Graves to get a sneak peek of IDA’s future headquarters.” [IDA]

Local group raises $5,000 for veterans — The Fraternal Order of Eagles 871 hosted a Dining for Charity event with 7 participating Alexandria restaurants and raised $5,000 for Homes for Our Troops. [Zebra]

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This coming Monday, September 6, is Labor Day and a number of city government offices and facilities will be closed.

The biggest event of the three-day weekend will be the day before Labor Day — Sunday, September 5. The annual Old Town Festival of Speed & Style will bring crowds to marvel at classic and beautiful rides along King Street.

City services will shift to a holiday schedule the next day. Trash collection will move to Tuesday, parking enforcement at metered spaces will be lifted, and it will be your last chance to enjoy public pools.

The city has listed the following closures and other changes planned for the week of September 6.

Resource Recovery: Residential refuse and recycling will not be collected September 6. Collection services will be delayed by one day during the week of September 6: Monday’s collection will be on Tuesday; Tuesday’s collection, on Wednesday; Wednesday’s collection, on Thursday; and Thursday’s collection, on Friday. Visit Resource Recovery for more information. The Household Hazardous Waste and Electronics Collection Center (3224 Colvin St.) will be closed Monday, September 6.

Animal Shelter: The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (4101 Eisenhower Ave.) will be open weekend hours by appointment on September 6. To make an appointment, visit AlexandriaAnimals.org/Adopt-By-Appointment or call 703.746.4774. For an animal emergency, call 703.746.4444.

Health Facilities: The Alexandria Health Department (4480 King St.), the Flora Krause Casey Health Center (1200 N. Howard St.) and the Teen Wellness Center at Alexandria City High School (3329 King St.) will be closed September 6.

Historic Alexandria: On September 6, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (105-107 S. Fairfax St.) will be open regular hours, from 1 to 5 p.m. All other City museums will be closed. For more information, visit alexandriava.gov/Historic and follow Historic Alexandria on social media or call 703.746.4554.

Hotlines: All emergency hotlines operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including the child protective services hotline at 703.746.5800; the domestic violence hotline at 703.746.4911; the emergency services for mental health or substance abuse crisis hotline at 703.746.3401; the adult protective services hotline at 703.746.5778; and the sexual assault hotline at 703.683.7273.

Libraries: All Alexandria Library branches and the Alexandria Law Library (520 King St.) will be closed September 6. Visit the Alexandria Library website for more information.

Parking: On September 6, the Alexandria Police Department will suspend enforcement of parking restrictions at metered spaces, residential permit parking districts and other areas with posted parking time limits. This suspension of enforcement applies only to the restrictions at legal parking spaces and does not permit parking in any location normally prohibited (for example, no-parking zones, loading zones or spaces for persons with disabilities). Temporary no-parking signs will be enforced September 6.

Impound Lot: The City’s Impound Facility (5249 Eisenhower Ave.) will be closed September 6. The Impound Facility is closed every Saturday and Sunday and on all observed City holidays. Fees will continue to accrue on Saturdays and Sundays but not on holidays.

Recreation and Arts Centers: On September 6, the Charles Houston (901 Wythe Street) and Patrick Henry (4653 Taney Ave.) recreation centers will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union St.) will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Chinquapin Park Recreation Center & Aquatics Facility (3210 King St.) and all other facilities will be closed. Visit alexandriava.gov/Recreation for more information.

Outdoor Pools: Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron St.) and Warwick Pool (3301 Landover St.) will be open from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. September 6. Visit alexandriav.gov/Aquatics for more information.

Schools: All Alexandria City Public Schools and administrative offices will be closed Friday, September 3 and Monday, September 6.

Courts: On September 6, the Alexandria Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Alexandria Circuit Court, Alexandria General District Court, Alexandria Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court and Court Service Unit (520 King St.) will be closed.

Department of Motor Vehicles: All Virginia DMV locations in Northern Virginia (including 2681 Mill Rd.) are open by appointment only. Many DMV services are available either online or by visiting dmvNOW.com/appt to schedule an appointment. Walk-in services are not available at this time.

Transit:  On September 6, the Alexandria Transit Company’s fare-free DASH bus service will operate on a Sunday schedule. The free King Street Trolley will operate from King Street Metro to Alexandria City Hall/Market Square, with service every 15 minutes, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Visit dashbus.com for more information.

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