Green DC: Washington Recycling Below National Average

Houston took a pounding from the New York Times for only recycling 2.6% of the its total refuse. This is well below the national average of 32%. Part of Houston's problem is lack of organization within their government when it comes to the recycling program. According to the New York Times, 10,000 Houston residents have been waiting for up to 10 years to receive a recycling bin.

Other cities have been much more successful in recycling high proportions of refuse. San Francisco and Los Angeles recycle over 60% of their garbage. Some other notable cities include Chicago (55.5%), San Diego (54.9), San Jose (61%), and New York (34%).

Unfortunately, Washington, DC does not fare well compared to its major metropolitan peers. DC's recycling program falls below the national average with only 22% of our area's trash being recycled. In a town where buildings must meet high environmental standards and public transportation is advocated, one might think we would have better recycling numbers.

So what exactly is the problem? I went searching the internet for some possible reasons for our low recycling numbers. First I found a story about the garbage collectors combining recycling and garbage into the same garbage trucks around the Cleveland Park and Chevy Chase neighborhoods. Even as recently as this month this practice was continuing despite repeated complaints by residents. The DCist has also reported that several of their readers have complained about the city's failure to deliver recycling bins to homes that need them.

To be fair, DC has been making an effort. I found THIS post explaining that recycling inspections are up and businesses who fail to recycle will be fined.

If you have questions about recycling, check the DC government site HERE. If you currently don't recycle, I recommend assigning two grocery bags in a common area of your home specifically designated for 1) cans, glass, and plastic and 2) newspaper and corrugated cardboard. Its also a little easier if you take out your main garbage can and replace it with a much smaller one so you remember to divide up the trash.

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