Phasing Out Plastic Bags for Yard Waste Collection

Fairfax County’s New Board Members Stood Firm

Yard Waste Containers

On Feb. 25, 2020, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to begin the transition away from the use of plastic bags for yard waste collection.  A joint proposal was made by Supervisors Penny Gross (Mason) and Pat Herrity (Springfield) for county staff to conduct further studies and to take additional time to provide an educational period especially for small-scale commercial landscapers so prevalent in this area.  Determined freshmen Supervisors James Walkinshaw (Braddock) and Dalia Palchik (Providence) objected to further studies and delays as this proposal has been under consideration since 2017. 

Every year that passes without this sound environmental policy  adds plastic slivers to county landfills, our waterways, and eventually into our food chain.  Walkinshaw revealed that while eating Salmon for dinner the night before, he thought about how he must also be ingesting plastic. This policy change is being implemented as an administrative action allowed under the County Code avoiding any further delays.  The time to act was now.

During the 2020 yard waste season, which runs March 1st through December 24th,  staff from Fairfax County’s Solid Waste Management Program will be working with the community and private haulers to help customers transition to using only compostable paper bags or reusable containers when setting out their yard waste. 

Now yard waste must be placed at the curb separately for collection in in paper yard bags or rigid containers. The compostable paper bags are available at major garden and hardware outlets. Be warned that they can disintegrate quickly if left on the street when raining or blow over in strong winds scattering their contents.   Best to have at least one large plastic trashcan on hand labeled “Yard Waste” for damp or windy days.  Another alternative is to mulch large amounts of leaves on the spot and spread on your flower beds for winter composting and fertilizing. 

Small quantities of yard waste can be tied in bundles (no longer than 4 feet in length, and no more than 50 pounds in weight). Branches must not exceed 6 inches in diameter. More than 4 bundles of tied yard waste should be scheduled for a special collection.

Yard waste is the organic waste generated by yard and lawn care and includes leaves, grass trimmings, shrub and tree trimmings. Yard waste does not include soil, mulch, sod, stumps, whole trees, large branches or limbs or clean-up from storm damage.

For landscapers, What can you do instead?

  • If you are a landscaper, talk to your customers about this change.
  • Let the grass clippings fertilize the lawn.
  • Use tarps to move leaves, clippings, and other yard waste from the lawn to the truck.
  • Use durable cans or paper yard waste bags
  • Invest in a portable mulcher and use to mulch leaves in the fall.

For more information:



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