ALEXANDRIA, VA–If you have been strolling through Waterfront Park in the last year or two, you may have noticed some futuristic trash cans—and less trash. As you know, in 2008, Alexandria adopted an Eco-City Charter, designating a “collaborative strategic effort to achieve sustainability throughout the City of Alexandria,” according to the City. Soon after, in 2009, the first Environmental Action Plan (EAP) was put into effect.
In 2019, Alexandria City updated their Environmental Action Plan (EAP 2040) and implemented the WasteSmart 20-year strategic program to guide the city’s solid waste management, and along with that the trash compactors.
These large, steel, solar-powered trash compactors have replaced some of the small, overflowing, typical city trash cans along the Potomac River—and they have worked swimmingly.
Ellen Eggerton, Sustainability Coordinator for Alexandria City, states, “These trash compactors were installed because of the high trash volume at the waterfront. The number of visitors and the arts and the surrounding businesses resulted in a more frequented need to empty the trash bins.”
She goes on to explain, “The solar compactor provides environmental benefits by using solar power to compact trash, which results in a less frequent need for trucks to come and empty the trash.”
Waterfront Park opened in 2019, and with it came a slew of opportunities for growth: restaurants and retail and art installations all blossomed one after another after another, booming the tourist industry—and the garbage and litter presence. In general, Alexandrians are good about picking up their litter and caring about the environment, but everyone is human.
“We have a great community,” notes Eggerton. “We have people who pick up litter all the time.” These compactors not only cater to the disbursement of litter, but the cleanup as well, providing a larger, more conveniently located vessel for disposal.
Julie Chapman, Found & Executive Director of ALX Dog Walk is one of those Alexandria residents who is passionate about the health, safety, and beautification of the city and the environment.
She states, “The ALX Dog Walk is committed to educating citizens about sustainability, and we’re excited to use our platform to inform people about Alexandria’s Eco-City efforts.” The 2022 ALX Dog Walk is happening April 2, and to get ready for it, Julie and her team (of people and pets) are helping keep Alexandria clean.
To spur Alexandria’s Eco-City efforts, Eggerton implores Alexandria residents and visitors not put recyclables in these compactors—they are for trash only—but rather get a few more steps logged on their smart watches and cross the street to a nearby recycling bin. Those remain as the original, bright blue sidewalk containers.
As Alexandrians are good about picking up their litter, Alexandria City is good about promoting its recycling programs. One takes plastic, shreds it, and separates it for reuse; another takes glass, turns it into gravel and sand; another teaches young children how to sort their recycling.
Proper recycling and proper trash disposal might feel like small parts of environmental consciousness, but if we all do it, those small parts add together to create one big change. If you would like to learn more on how you can do your small part, visit alexandriava.gov/WasteSmart.