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Are there new technologies that might provide a better way to dispose of Fairfax County’s trash? County officials are working to find that out.

Next week, the county will issue a “request for expressions of interest” to solicit proposals from waste disposal companies.

“We’re casting a very wide net to see what’s out there,” said Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason), chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors Environment Committee, which was briefed on the process on Tuesday.

Currently, most non-recyclable waste in the county winds up at the privately operated waste-to-energy plant in Lorton. Covanta owns and operates the plant, which incinerates trash and uses the heat to generate electricity, but it sits on county land adjacent to a former landfill.

The county has a contract with Covanta that extends through 2016. In the spring of 2011, a possible deal to extend that contract for 30 years fell apart.

Now, the county is simultaneously weighing a Covanta contract extension and exploring waste management alternatives, said Joyce Doughty, director of solid waste disposal and resource recovery.

The county is not necessarily looking for another one-size-fits-all approach, Doughty said. The goal is to find the most cost-effective and environmentally sensitive approach for collecting, recycling and disposing of solid waste.

In addition, said Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), having the full spectrum of options “gives us some leverage in dealing with Covanta.”

The staff review of the responses to the request for expressions of interest is expected to be complete this April.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com