Weekly with Regular Curbside Service
Arlington County's residential food scrap collection bolsters sustainability by diverting biodegradable waste from incineration to composting.
What counts as food scraps? What doesn't?
Arlington's year-round curbside yard waste collection began in 2016. Five years later, the County expanded green cart pickup contents to include food scraps, which range from the remnants of fruits and vegetables to that of dairy and meats, bones included. Even greasy pizza boxes and paper napkins qualify. Collected along with yard trimmings placed in the green cart, either in compostable bags or even loose. (Food scraps drop-off available at the Trades Center.)
The implementation of a food scraps collection program provides the platform to increase awareness for reducing food waste and promoting healthy soils. Other benefits include making better use of leftovers, minimizing spoilage by storing refrigerated and perishable items properly and highlighting everyone's role in reducing food waste both inside and outside the home.
According to the EPA, some of the many benefits of reducing wasted food include:
- Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
- Conserves energy and resources, preventing pollution involved in the growing, manufacturing, transporting, and selling food (not to mention hauling the food waste and then landfilling it).
- Supports the community by providing donated untouched food that would have otherwise gone to waste to those who might not have a steady food supply.
Food Recovery Hierarchy
The hierarchy below identifies food management practices from most preferred to least preferred. Through food scraps collection, Arlington can fully implement the Food Recovery Hierarchy. Collection efforts focus on three areas: consumer education, waste reduction and diversion, and sustainable material management (composting).
Arlington’s Zero Waste Goal
This effort is in support of the County’s zero waste goal of diverting up to 90% of our waste from incineration by 2038. Before September 2021, food scraps made up over 20% of the residential waste stream according to Arlington's internal quarterly waste audits. With the food scrap collection program, residents are increasing the County’s recycling rate, reducing the amount of trash incinerated, creating soil amendments and, depending on individual actions, saving money, reducing food waste and reducing GHG emissions. This program is also consistent and supported by the County’s overall Solid Waste Management Plan, submitted and approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.