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D.C. DPW Launches Cart Tagging Campaign and Contest to Reduce Recycling Contamination

One resident per Ward will be named a “recycling superstar” for the perfect recycling set out

(WASHINGTON, DC) –Today, the Department of Public Works (DPW) launched a “Feet on the Street” campaign to improve the District’s curbside recycling program. During the eight-week campaign, DPW will tag recycling carts that contain unacceptable items and reward residents whose carts exemplify best practices.

“Feet on the Street” will strive to eliminate plastic wrap/bags/film from single- and multi-family household recycling carts and, consequently, reduce landfill waste. Direct cart messaging is an effective recycling education strategy; the agency’s 2018 tagging pilot resulted in a 20 percent reduction of plastic bags and film in the curbside stream.

“Collected residential recycling tonnage has increased by 20 percent thanks to our curbside collections program and the commitment of the residents we serve,” said DPW Interim Director Christine Davis. “To reach the District’s 80 percent waste diversion goal, we need to reduce more contamination from the recycling stream. Part of that involves changing behavior when necessary and also rewarding behavior when possible.”

DPW will inspect recycling carts on 16 recycling routes and leave “Oops” tags when non-recyclable items are found, such as plastic wrap, bags and film, clothing, yard waste, ropes, chains, furniture and scrap metal.

Recycling inspectors also will be looking for recycling superstars. The first resident in each ward identified as having a perfect recycling set out will be notified. The eight winning residents will be announced on Earth Day, April 22 via DPW and recycling partner social media channels, and will receive a recycling “swag bag.”

The “Perfect Set Out” is recycling that:

  1. Is contained in the residents’ DC government-issued recycling can or bin.
  2. Does not contain any unacceptable recycling items.
  3. Includes recycled items that are emptied and rinsed.

“Feet on the Street” is funded in part by a grant from The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit designed to help recycling municipalities overcome recycling obstacles.

“Our ‘Feet on the Street’ initiative works by giving District residents instant feedback on what is and is not recyclable,” said Chris Coady, Director of Community Programs at The Recycling Partnership. “Through this personalized and real-time feedback process, we are helping DC capture more quality recyclables that are then transformed into new materials, creating a healthier, more circular economy, a less wasteful planet, and a stronger, healthier community.”

Residents can visit zerowaste.dc.gov to find more information about the contest and see a complete list of acceptable/unacceptable items when they use the “What Goes Where” tool.