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DROP OFF | Regional Glass Drop-off Program

Curbside collection type: Single-stream -drop-off centers for glass

In 2019. Fairfax County, City of Alexandria, Prince William County, and Arlington County began a strategic partnership to recover and recycle glass. In Northern Virginia, glass collected in curbside recycling bins is sent to recycling facilities where it eventually ends up in landfills due to the lack of MRF clean up equipment and nearby end markets. During the transportation process to the facility, glass is broken and becomes mixed with recycling residue (small bits of plastic and paper) as part of the sorting process, making it unrecoverable. To tackle this challenge, these jurisdictions have committed to collecting glass via purple glass-only drop-off containers and bringing it to Fairfax County’s “Big Blue” processing plant, where it will be recycled for use in a variety of projects.

“Fairfax County is proud of this partnership and is looking forward to continuing the growth of true glass recycling in Northern Virginia. By using the unique purple color we are hopeful that our residents will easily be able to identify glass recycling locations throughout NOVA.” John Kellas, deputy director of Public Works and Environmental Services.

For partnering jurisdictions, all colors of emptied glass bottles and jars are acceptable materials for glass drop-off. Food residue from jars should be rinsed out before placing glass in the bins. Items that are not accepted include food, plastic bags, lamps or light bulbs, ceramics, porcelain, mirrors, windows, and glass sheets.

Fairfax County’s glass recycling plan started as a pilot program with 12 purple bins sprinkled throughout the county. They averaged about 100 pounds of glass recycled per week in a county with nearly 1.1 million residents. As of Jan. 31, 2020 the county had recycled approximately 4.8 million pounds – or about 2,400 tons – of glass through 26 purple can locations, all of which weren’t being recycled in the single-stream system a year ago, according to Forbes. The program is now averaging 1,000 pounds of glass recycled per month, which includes a noticeable uptick since the county stopped collecting glass in curbside bins in October 2019, he says.


“It’s quite a significant increase,” Eric Forbes, the director of recycling, engineering and environmental compliance for the Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program says, noting that his office went from emptying the bins approximately once per week to now emptying some locations three times per week. The glass is picked up by a truck and dropped off at a processing plant in Lorton, Virginia, he says. Rough cost estimates for the program include $650,000 for the glass processing machine and site work, $10,000 per year for maintenance and approximately $50 per ton for transportation and collection, Forbes says. But the program should yield substantial savings for the single-stream system, he adds.

Source: Fairfax County and Waste Advantage Magazine