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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Resource Recovery
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Page updated Mar 10, 2011 11:21 AM

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Plastic Bag Recycling Initiative
Make the Right Choice... One Plastic Bag at a Time!

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PlasticBagRecyclingVideoThe City of Alexandria Plastic Bag Recycling Initiative

Mission: To Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle more plastic bags in the City of Alexandria by:

  • Increasing environmental education to students, City employees and residents
  • Creating and informing residents about opportunities to recycle more plastic bags
  • Meeting the goals and objectives of the Eco-City Alexandria Initiative, to protect the environment

Vision: A litter and disposable bag free Alexandria.

The City of Alexandria received a $10,000 grant from the State of Virginia to increase plastic bag recycling in the City. The City will use the grant funding to partner with local businesses to improve communication to residents about the benefits of reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic bags.


The Plastic Bag Recycling Initiative has collected plastic bags and given away reusable bags at the following events:

  • Initiative Kick off Event September 21, 2009, we collected 386 gallons of plastic bags, equaling 64 pounds and gave away nearly 800 reusable bags. 
  • Art on the Avenue October 3, 2009, we collected about 95 gallons of plastic bags, equaling 15 pounds and gave away 660 reusable bags.
  • West End Farmers Market October 25, 2009, we collected about 150 gallons of plastic bags, equaling 25 pounds and gave away 75 reusable bags.
  • America Recycles Day Event at Whole Foods November 15, 2009, we collected about 95 gallons of plastic bags, equaling 15 pounds and gave away 200 reusable bags.  Thank you to Whole Foods for Sponsoring the Event!
  • Schools Plastic Bag Recycling Competition September 2009 to April 2010, the public school collected over 29,000 gallons of plastic bags, equaling 4,823 pounds.  The top three schools were Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, Charles Barrett Elementry School, and Douglas MacArthur Elementary Schoo.  Thank you to all who participated!
  • Del Ray Farmers Market April 17, 2010, we collected about 285 gallons of plastic bags, equaling 47 pounds and gave away 60 reusable bags. 
  • Alexandria Earth Day Celebration April 24, 2010, we collected about 95 gallons of plastic bags, equaling 15 pounds and gave away 30 reusable bags.

Total Tons of Plastic Bags Collected Todate:  2.5 tons

The City has hosted two stream clean ups.  See results here. 


Plastic Bag Recycling Initiative Sponsors

Presto logo
Presto Valet
Alexandria Times Logo
Covanta Logo Dominion Logo
WM Recycle America Logo 7-eleven logo

Whole Foods Logo

Virginia Retail Federation and Trex


Why Reduce, Reuse and Recycle your Plastic Bags?

Plastic bags not only use a non-renewable resource, oil, but also, pollute the environment and food chain when not properly recycled.

Alexandria and U.S. Plastic Bag Figures and Facts

  • Plastic bags degrade into smaller and more toxic pieces, leaching into our ground water and food chain (National Geographic).
  • According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.
  • Alexandrians use approximately 186 Million plastic bags a year, enough to fill City Hall! (Natural Environment.Com).
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.s. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. An estimated 12 million barrels of oil are required to make that many plastic bags.
  • Plastic bags harm sea turtle and other marine animal, when animals mistake them for food or become entangled(EPA).

Turtle eating plastic bag Plastic Bag on Bird Plastic Bag at Cameron Run Park Plastic Bag at Holmes Run Park 

  • Only 9 percent nation wide are recycled (EPA)
  • The Industry figures show 90 percent of all grocery bags are plastic (


Make the Right Choice... Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle your Plastic Bags

There are simple steps, we can take to reduce waste and ensure that plastic bags do not end up as litter.

1. Reduce:

  • Decline a bag at checkout, is a bag really necessary for a pack of gum?
  • Avoid double bagging
  • Use a reusable bag, check out local retailers who provide discounts for reusing bags!

2. Reuse: Reuse plastic bags as:

  • Waste basket liners
  • Lunch bags
  • Pet clean up

3. Recycle: Recycling plastic bags and wraps is important because this valuable material can be made into dozens of useful new products such as low-maintenance fencing, decking, building & construction products, shopping carts and new bags!

Next time you head to your local grocer or retailer, remember to return:

  • Grocery/shopping bags (no dark colored or black bags)
  • Dry-cleaning bags
  • Clean/empty produce and bread bags
  • Wraps from paper towels, bathroom tissue, napkins, diapers, bottled water cartons
  • Plastic bags that delivered the newspaper.

4. Get Involved!: Plastic bags are local problem, as well as, a global problem.

The City of Alexandria, as well as other organizations such as the Alice Gerguson Foundation, organize local volunteers to clean up along City waterways. Upcoming volunteer opportunities include:

Homles Run Stream Clean Up

On November 14, 2009 despite the dreary start, 35 volunteers including individuals, City employees, families and Girl Scout Troop 168 helped clean up Holmes Run as part of America Recycles Day and the Plastic Bag Recycling Initiative.  These volunteers collected:

  • 30 full bags of litter including
  • 345 plastic bags,
  • numerous bottles and cans,
  • a camera, baseball bat, soccer ball, gardening supplies, and a tire. 

Thank you to Whole Foods for sponsoring the breakfast goodies. 

Four Mile Run Stream Clean Up

On April 10, 2010, 87 volunteers helped clean up Four Mile Run, as part of the 22nd Annual Potomac River Watershed Clean Up and the Plastic Bag Recycling Initiative.  These volunteers collected:

  • 157 full bags of litter
  • 777 plastic bags
  • a shopping cart, bike, and an orange work cone

ARD 2009 Clean Up Group 2ARD 2009 Stream Clean Up Group 1ARD 2009 Stream Clean Up, TroopARD Stream Clean Up Family



Learn More About Local Retailers who are Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling Plastic Bags

Many grocers and retailers now offer plastic bag recycling collection programs that allow shoppers to return their used plastic bags and product wraps to be recycled. In most stores, plastic bag recycling containers are located at the front entrance or near checkout areas.

Business Name Location Accepts Plastic Bags for Recycling Gives Discount for Reusable Bags Sells Reusable Bags
Presto Valet  1623 N. Quaker Lane  Yes; plastic dry cleaning bags and wire hangers No Yes; sells reusable dry cleaning bags
Whole Foods  1700 Duke Street  Yes Yes; $.05 for each bag Yes
MOM's  3831 Mount Vernon Avenue  Yes Yes; $.05 for paper bags/$.10 for totes Yes
Trader Joes  612 N. Saint Asaph Street  No No Yes
Giant  425 E. Monroe Avenue  Yes Yes; $.05 for each bag Yes
530 First Street  Yes Yes; $.05 for each bag Yes
3131 Duke Street  Yes Yes; $.05 for each bag Yes
3680 King Street  Yes Yes; $.05 for each bag Yes
5730 Edsall Road  Yes Yes; $.05 for each bag Yes
1476 Beauregard Street  Yes Yes; $.05 for each bag Yes
Safeway  500 S. Royal Street  Yes No Yes
3526 King Street  Yes No Yes
Shoppers  3801 Jefferson Davis Highway  Yes Yes; $.05 for each bag Yes
Staples  3155 Duke Street  Yes No Yes
3301 Jefferson Davis Highway  Yes No Yes
Harris Teeters  4641 Duke Street  Yes No Yes

*Please call 703-746-4410. the Solid Waste Division if you know of another location/business that accepts plastic bags for recycling.


What Becomes of Your Recycled Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are recycled into many different products. Most plastic bags are recycled into composite lumber through companies such as Trex.  Plastic bags can also be reprocessed into small pellets or post consure resin, which can become feed stock for a variety of products such as new bags, pallets, containers, crates and pipes.

Recycled bags that are turned into composite lumber, are generally comprised of two equal substances: sawdust and plastic bags. The lumber made from these two recycled substances is used to make decking, door and window frames. When the recycling center beings the recycling process, it melts down the plastic. Next, the plastic is forced through an extruder, a machine that squeezes the plastic into long noodle-like shapes or small pieces. The extruder die molds the plastic before it is cut with a knife. Finally, the plastic exists in a form of composite lumber or tiny pellets that can be manufactured into other plastic items. Learn more about the process at Earth 9-11.

The City of Alexandria has partnered with Trex, an alternative lumber naufacturer, to increase plastic bag recycling in the city. Trex receives its plastic and wood fibers from reclaimed or recycled resources, including sawdust and used pallets from woodworking operations, and recycled plastic grocery bags from all over the country. Trex is located locally in Winchester, VA. For more information about Trex, visit:

Trex Product 1 Decking Trex Logo Trex Product 2 Fencing 


America Recycles Day Pledge and Contest - Make the Right Choice! One Plastic Bag at a Time!

The three R's, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are important to the sustainability of Alexandria and necessary components of any environmentally friendly city.  The benefits include:

  • Saving natural resources
  • Preventing litter and pollution
  • Protecting wildlife and the environment

By making simple choices at home, school, work and the grocery store can help save resources, reduce pollution and improve the beauty of Alexandria. 

America Recycles Day Pledge - Winners Announced! 
Sisters at Polk Elementary are recognized for their recycling efforts, in conjunction with America Recycles Day Pledge!
Naomi and Rebekah Corbin were drawn as the Local and Regional pledge drawing winners.  Watch the Award Presentation Here!

America Recycles Day Local Pledge Card Winners:  Beck Hensley, Steve Hartell, Naomi Corbin, Charlene Pritzker, Kara Macek, M Velten, Brett Sparklock, Elynn Simmons, Sue McIver, and Kathleen Chandler.

America Recycles Day Regional Pledge Card Winners:  All local pledge cards were entered in Metropolitan Washington Council of Government ARD drawing.  Two winners were chosen from two categories: All Ages and Student.  Both names drawn are residents of the City of Alexandria.  Congratulations to:

  • Rebekah Corbin, Student Winner:  She won a $300 gift card to Performance Bike and her school will receive $500 towards an environmental project.
  • Michelle Ryan, All Ages Winner:   She won a $300 gift card to Performance Bike. 

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle your Plastic Bags Submissions:

There are many ways to use plastic bags that are friendly to the enivornment . . . A more innovative approach is to use them as packing material . . . Click Here to Read More!

Thank you to all who submitted tips and ideas about:

  • Easy ways to reduce the number of plastic bags generated, littered or thrown away;
  • Creative ways to reuse plastic bags; and
  • Easy ways to recycle plastic bags (or remembering to).

Submission Contest Winners are: Residential Category: Jane Dionne, Kathryn Mukai, and Rachel Mohler; Student Category: Regan Mukai; Employee Category: Claudia Ruiz Fitzgerald, Beth Carton, and Karen Giuseppe. 

ARD 2009 Pledge WinnerARD 2009 WinnerARD 2009 Winner 2
America Recycles Day Local Pledge Drawing and Submission Contest Winners with their Prize! November 15, 2009


Other Plastic Bag Recycling Resources

Below is other information related to disposable/plastic bag debate:


2900-B Business Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22314
Fax: 703.751.2569

Office Hours:
8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.