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April 1, 2021

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DC launches recycling education campaign

The Department of Public Works (DPW) in Washington, D.C., has launched a Feet on the Street recycling education campaign to improve the district’s curbside recycling program. During the eight-week campaign, the department will tag recycling carts that contain unacceptable items and reward residents whose carts exemplify best practices.

According to a news release from the department of public works, the campaign aims to eliminate plastic wrap, bags and film from single- and multifamily household recycling carts. The department says direct cart messaging can be an effective recycling education strategy since 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,” says 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.”

The department says it plans to inspect carts on 16 recycling routes and leave “Oops” tags when nonrecyclable items are found, such as plastic wrap, bags and film, clothing, yard waste, ropes, chains, furniture and scrap metal.

Recycling inspectors will also look for what the department calls “recycling superstars.” The first resident in each ward identified as having perfect recycling set out will be notified, and the eight winning residents will be announced on Earth Day on April 22 through DPW and recycling partner social media channels. DPW says those winners will receive a recycling “swag bag.” DPW says having a “perfect set out” means that the recycling is contained in the residents’ D.C. government-issued recycling can or bin; does not contain any unacceptable recycling items; and includes recycled items that are emptied and rinsed.

DPW says Feet on the Street is funded in part by a grant from The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia, which is a national nonprofit that helps 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,” says Chris Coady, director of community programs at The Recycling Partnership. “Through this personalized and real-time feedback process, we are helping D.C. 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.”