City Desk

Is the City Actually Recycling Its Old Trash Cans?

The great D.C. garbage can saga of 2014 continues.

The District government swiftly delivered about 210,000 new trash and recycling bins to residents in February, March, and the beginning of April. But the city was much slower when it came to picking up people's old cans, resulting in heaps of unwanted receptacles in alleys and streets throughout the city. The mayor eventually announced a "blitz," vowing to quickly pick up the bulk of the old cans and recycle them by the end of the month. Here's how that went.

Today, the Washington Post reports that the city is picking up cans, but instead of recycling them, is actually just dumping at least some of them in the trash.

Enter Teresa Ahmann, a North Michigan Park resident who went to the city’s Fort Totten Transfer Station last week to drop off trash and stood aghast at the site of more than 100 crushed trash and recycling cans mixed into two large mountains of garbage.

“I hate to be disgusted with the city I have lived in for some 40 years, but it seems inescapable sometimes,” said the Northeast resident.

So, were the cans recycled? Did city workers later surreptitiously pick the cans out of mountains of trash before they were loaded on trucks bound for landfills?

Public works spokeswoman Linda Grant did not exactly answer the question in an e-mail on Monday. “During the seven-day blitz … we collected about 11,000” cans, she wrote.

The Post also reports that residents observed unwanted cans being loaded in a garbage truck, not the flatbed trucks that were initially used for weeks to transport old cans.

Grant, of DPW, had previously told City Desk that the cans' manufacturer would be recycling the unwanted trash and recycling cans, paying the city $1.50 for each one.

And, according to Grant, each of the trucks that the city is supposed to be using holds about 40 to 50 cans, meaning it would likely take thousands of trips with the about 38 trucks the city says it is using for the project to properly dispose of the cans.  (The city has reportedly picked up 71,000 cans so far.)

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who chairs the committee that oversees DPW, has said these problems likely occurred because of the mayor's plan to deliver the cans faster than the city originally intended. The Council initially approved a plan to deliver the new cans over a 5-year period. Instead, Mayor Vince Gray secured funds to deliver the bulk of the cans before April.

Add this latest issue to the slew of problems that can occur when a city attempts to deliver 210,000 trash and recycling cans and pick up the old ones in just a few months.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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