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November 8, 2010 Published in 2010 In Review, City Hall, EcoNews

City Delivers New Recycling Carts

A new Alexandria recycling bin. (Photo: James Cullum)

Despite the concerns of some that “Big Brother is watching what you recycle”, Alexandria’s new recycling carts, complete with Radio Frequency Identification tags, began arriving last week. The new wheeled and lidded containers have more capacity and increase the ease and convenience of maneuvering recycling to the curb.

The Alexandria City Council voted last year to buy the new recycling carts with RFID tags. “As part of our Eco-City initiatives, we want to increase recycling throughout Alexandria,” said Rich Baier, director of Transportation and Environmental Services. “The RFID tag will not allow us to monitor what or how much an individual is recycling, but will tell us where we need to do more outreach to encourage better participation in the program.”

Top Ten Things to Know about the New Recycling Carts

1. There will be 3 sizes of blue containers (64 & 35 gallon carts and 18 gallon bin)
2. The 64 & 35 gallon carts will have wheels and lids for easy and convenient use, while preventing litter on windy days
3. Container size will be assigned by housing type and collection day
4. Recycling containers are property of the City of Alexandria and are to remain at the property when you move
5. Delivery will begin November 1, 2010 and will take several weeks
6. Residents will receive an informational packet with their new container
7. Residents will have an opportunity to request a different size recycling container after the initial delivery period is completed
8. Radio frequency identification tags will be used by assigned by block number and street name, NOT individual addresses
9. Boxes do not have to be broken down and can go inside the new recycling carts
10. All recyclable items can go together in the new recycling container

After careful research, study and customer requests, City staff selected a blue wheeled cart as the new standard for collecting recyclables at most City households. New materials that can be collected include: mixed paper, newspaper, plastics #1-7, rigid plastics, coat hangers, aluminum bottles and cans, glass, aluminum foil and trays, plastic – bags in a bag, empty aerosol cans, books, cardboard, gable top juice and milk containers and paperboard.

The new recycling carts:

  • Easier to roll to the curb – the old bins were clumsy and difficult to carry.
  • Increase safety of residents and collection staff – the new cart has wheels and can be emptied semi-automatically, which protects both residents and collection staff.
  • Improve community cleanliness- lids on containers minimize spillage, material blown by winds, and keeps the material dry.
  • Increase recycling rate and reduce disposal costs – one ton of trash costs the City $78 to dispose, while one ton of recycling earns the City approximately $30.

Carts are assigned by housing type based on City housing classifications (i.e. Detached, Semi-Detached, Row, etc). For example:

  • Detached houses and duplexes will receive a 64 gallon container
  • Row and townhouses will receive either an 18 gallon or a 35 gallon container depending on space constraints.

The new containers include RFID tags, comparable to a bar code that can be read by the collection truck once placed within 12 inches of the truck. The Solid Waste Division does not track customers by individual name or property owner, only by the addresses served. The RFID tags are assigned to customers based on their block number and street name, not by individual or property owner.

RFID tags can be used in the following ways:

  • To generate an accurate and comprehensive participation rate. Participation will be gauged at the day and route level, not by the individual level.
  • To provide additional education and outreach to routes, which will provide information about the benefits of recycling and provide additional contact information if residents have questions.

The RFID tags will not:

  • Track how much an individual recycles
  • Track what you recycle
  • Track who you are