Staff Editorial: City’s expanded recycling program merits praise

Trash and recycling containers line a Georgetown street. (Brady Holt/The Current/June 2017)

The District has a laudable goal of diverting 80 percent of waste citywide away from landfills or waste-to-energy incinerators. That’s a far cry from today’s patterns, in which barely 20 percent of residential waste is recycled, and other users recycle an even smaller fraction.

Given the wide gap in these numbers, we’re glad to see concrete action toward the far-off goal. Effective immediately, the Department of Public Works has expanded the list of items that it accepts in its single-stream recycling bins. Moreover, starting Jan. 1, commercial and multifamily buildings will also be required to recycle the same items through their own private refuse services. The agency announced the changes last Thursday.

Newly recyclable items include paper and plastic plates, cups, lids and to-go containers; pizza boxes; and plastic trays, produce containers and deli/bakery boxes. They join existing recyclables — most types of paper, plastic, metal, cardboard and glass — as acceptable for the District’s blue recycling bins. The Public Works Department is reminding residents, though, not to place their recycling in plastic bags or to place plastic bags in the blue bins for any reason; according to a news release, plastic bags can get tangled in the city’s recycling equipment, and should be recycled separately using bag drop-offs at supermarkets.

We’re pleased with the newly accepted recyclable items, as the city’s expanded list incorporates items that are common to many residents’ everyday lives. While pizza boxes and cup lids alone can’t make a huge dent in the District’s overall recycling rates, every bit helps.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agrees.

“The EPA salutes the District’s efforts to expand recycling options for its residents and businesses. Innovative local efforts like this help divert valuable items from the waste stream and back into productive use,” the agency’s Nigel Simon says in a D.C. news release. “This helps save resources and energy, spur new economic development, and create job opportunities.”

We encourage all residents to take advantage of the additional recycling options the city has made available to us.