Arlington County, Virginia’s Solid Waste Bureau handles a massive amount of yard waste each year, processing approximately 50,000 cubic yards of leaves alone. To handle these materials effectively, the county opened a new Earth Products Recycling Yard, which operates for residents of the country at no charge. The facility is designed to handle large amounts of trees, brush, grass, bushes, and other related material collected by the Solid Waste Bureau from both citizens and other county government agencies such as the Department of Parks and Recreation. The county also runs special collection programs during year to address additional issues, such as the increase of dead leaves during the fall. These materials are subsequently transported to the complex, where they are processed and recycled into both leaf and wood mulch, which is then provided to residents and business free of charge. Additionally, the Yard collects inert materials such as masonry, asphalt, and concrete, recycling them into raw materials that are then used in county road projects. In 2014 alone, the county recycled 11,623 tons of earth products and 6,757 tons of concrete and asphalt, which contributed to the county’s 51.1 percent recycling rate.
The project has proven extremely effective and cost efficient. The cost of the $1,000,000 open-air facility will be partially offset by the savings the county will see from supplying some of the materials for roadway projects. The system is also entirely sustainable, and can demonstrate to other waste management officials a cheaper and more productive method of handling certain types of waste.