City Desk

DPW Bulk Trash Pickup: No Construction Debris!


Replacing your toilet? Sick of that smelly couch? Want to toss some musty carpeting?

No need to find a friend with a pickup in this town, because the Department of Public Works'll haul that household bulk trash away for you with no hassle whatsoever. Just call 311, then give your address and a list of items that you need to unload.

But watch out: Those DPW bulk trashers can be a touch picky about things. Last week, for instance, I skedded a pickup and told the 311 call taker that I was throwing out a toilet, a vanity, plus three or four bundles of wood. The call taker said 10-4 and locked me into a Sept. 23 pickup date. He said to have the stuff by the curb on the night of the 22nd.

As if he even needed to say that. Prepping for a bulk-trash pickup is always one of the more momentous events in my life, something to celebrate and get all pumped about. I mean, just think about the service that's being offered here. All you have to do is carry big items out the door at an appointed time, and people come to take them away for free, plus taxes.

Days before the pickup, I was planning things out—a process that involved collecting all the materials needed to bundle the wood, inching that toilet and the vanity toward the door, and just getting mentally prepared for the pickup.

Early on the morning before the pickup day, I had finished putting the whole package together. The vanity, toilet, and bundles were sitting in my front patio area, waiting for evening to come, when it's OK to place them on the sidewalk in anticipation of the pickup. At around 9 pm, after most of the pedestrian traffic had slowed down, I put everything out.

The bulk-trash truck came early the next morning, while I was in the kitchen having breakfast. Barely heard the activity. When I realized that the action had already gone down, I rushed to the front door to see how things had gone.

They'd left one of my bundles. Shit.

On my way to work, I spotted a bulk-trash team doing its rounds. I asked the fellows what the deal was with my left-behind bundle. They asked what was in there. I said some wood and some leftover backerboard from a bathroom renovation. Uh-oh—that qualifies the bundle as construction debris. One of the fellows said that the contractor has to haul that stuff away.

OK, but what if there's no contractor? What if it's a DIY sorta thing?

Again, no construction debris.

Here's your handy bulk-trash acceptability list:

Acceptable Bulk Items

* Air conditioners (drain water and fluids)
* Hot water heaters
* Household furniture
* Large toys (kiddie pools, playhouses, disassembled swing sets)
* Major appliances, e.g., refrigerators (doors removed)
* Mattresses and bed frames
* Rugs (MUST be rolled and tied)

Unacceptable Bulk Items

* Books
* Bricks
* Ceiling tile
* Construction Materials
* Demolition materials
* Dirt
* Drywall
* Hazardous and/or liquid waste
* Household trash or garbage
* Small tree limbs (should be tied and placed with regular trash)
* Tree stumps
* Tires

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  • IMGoph

    and that's why stuff like that ends up in alleys behind vacant houses—because no one doing a DIY job is going to pay a commercial hauler to come take that stuff away...

  • David

    DIY folks don't have to pay...they can just take it to their local dump and get rid of it themselves for free plus taxes. Alley dumping is all about laziness not penny pinching.

  • Jamie

    This is such a non-issue. You can take it to Fort Totten yourself any weekday from 1-5 or any Saturday from 8 til 3. Or you can just break it down small enough that it fits in a trash bag and put it out with your regular trash.

    It hardly seems unreasonable to me that the purpose of the city's bulk pickup service is NOT to come and empty your dumpster for you. If they technically allowed you to get rid of construction debris, do you have ANY IDEA what that would open them up to?

  • Jamie

    "because no one doing a DIY job is going to pay a commercial hauler to come take that stuff away…"

    ... which would make them stupid as hell, because they probably did not get permits for their work, and leaving piles of construction debris in the alley is a great way to draw attention to themselves.

    Personally, I have not found that construction debris is a significant part of the trash problem in DC's alleys. Couches, televisions, random waste, yes. But contractors get rid of their own stuff, as does any DIYer who doesn't want DCRA up their butts.

  • IMGoph

    jaime et. al: first of all, let me apologize for misreading this. i thought erik was saying that the city wouldn't take construction debris at all (either via bulk pickup or at fort totten). i didn't realize that it was OK to truck it up there yourself. i thought you could only take things like couches (i.e., non-construction waste) up there.

    and, RE: dumping in the alley, if you were to do that (not claiming any experience here myself), you wouldn't dump it in your own alley, behind your own house. you'd dump it behind someone else's house in the middle of the night, and leave them with the problem...

  • JohnD

    … which would make them stupid as hell, because they probably did not get permits for their work, and leaving piles of construction debris in the alley is a great way to draw attention to themselves.

    Actually, as a homeowner you are able to do a certain amount of construction without a permit, according to the DCRA website:

    What types of work do not require a building permit?

    Unless you are in a historic district, the following work does not require a building permit:

    Brick pointing
    Caulking, patching, and plaster repair
    Installation of cabinets and architectural millwork
    Installation of window screens and storm windows
    Repair of existing fences with like materials
    Retaining walls, 18 inches (0.46m) or less in height
    Construction of garden storage sheds complying with DC Code Section 105.2.6
    Painting, but not painting with fire-retardant paint
    Replacement of the following materials:

    Non-rated windows and doors
    Gutters and downspouts
    Private sidewalks and driveways
    Non-rated suspended ceiling tile
    Floor coverings
    Up to 160 square feet (9.3m) of gypsum board
    Up to 50 linear feet (15.24m) of sanitary venting piping
    Up to 10 linear feet (3.05m) of sanitary drainage system piping
    Up to 20 linear feet (6.10m) of sanitary venting piping
    Up to 50 linear feet (15.24m) of hydraulic system piping
    Up to 10 linear feet (3.05m) of duct work, in non-hazardous and commercial kitchen exhaust systems


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