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  • Tiffani Johnson

Improving Recycling & Reducing Waste in DC

On March 23, DPW will launch an eight-week recycling cart tagging campaign designed to eliminate plastic bags, film and wrap, as well as other unacceptable items, from single- and multi-family household recycling carts. This is very similar to DPW’s 2019 pilot program where inspectors checked for recycling carts containing items the District doesn’t accept.


Throughout that initiative, carts that contained any non-recyclables were tagged with an “Oops” sticker, which identified those items. That campaign led to a 20 percent reduction in plastic film in the District’s recycling waste stream.


During this season’s campaign, residents will once again be reminded if their recycling cart contains non recycling items. Repeat offenders, however, may receive a notice that their recycling will not be collected until those items have been removed. If we can change behavior, we can eliminate contamination in DC’s recycling waste stream, but we want to reward behavior as well.


Eight rock star recyclers will be rewarded for recycling carts that display the “perfect recycling set out”. Our recycling inspectors will begin selecting the first resident in each ward whose recycle cart meets the winning criteria on April 12. Winners will be celebrated on Earth Day, April 22 with much social media fanfare and gifts to help them in their continued efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.


For more contest information and to find out how you can achieve the “perfect set out,” visit zerowaste@dc.gov. You can also check out the complete list of acceptable/unacceptable recycling items by using the “What Goes Where” tool.


Congratulations in advance to the contest winners. Eliminating recycling contamination means sending less waste to landfills and puts DC on track to achieve its 80 percent waste diversion rate goal. When residents, workers and visitors recycle right, we all win.

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