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Bowser Administration Reports Major Strides in Reducing Contamination Within District’s Residential Recycling Stream

Monday, November 15, 2021
In advance of America Recycles Day, the Department of Public Works is expanding on momentum by launching new interactive recycling story map and outreach campaign

(Washington, DC) The Bowser Administration, through the District’s Department of Public Works (DPW), announces that thanks to outreach to residents over the last four years, the residential recycling contamination rate has dropped from 33 percent to 11 percent — an exciting development in meeting Mayor Bowser’s Zero Waste Goal of 80-percent waste diversion by 2032. Now, in advance of America Recycles Day on November 15, DPW is expanding its outreach efforts by launching an interactive ArcGIS story map on residential recycling and mailing new guidance to residents.

This dynamic story map will give an insider’s tour of how the residential recycling system works in the District, from the blue bin and to recycling end markets, and will empower District residents with more information than ever before on how the system works. A postcard mailer also will be sent to the 105,000 DPW-serviced households this November emphasizing the five types of recyclables that are most desired in the system: aluminum cans, rigid plastic, paper, cartons, and glass.

“Over the past four years, our education and outreach have been laser focused on making sure we show residents which items they should keep out of the recycling blue bins in order to reduce contamination, and we’ve seen fantastic results,” said Acting DPW Director Christine Davis. “In 2017, our residential recycling stream had a contamination rate of 33 percent, but this year, we’ve observed a rate averaging 11 percent. This indicates that we now have some of the cleanest residential recycling in the country.”

While DPW has made formidable progress in improving what materials go into the residential recycling stream, its new outreach efforts will focus on increasing recycling participation by residents.

“While we’re doing a much better job of recycling right, we also want District residents who currently do not recycle to participate moving forward,” Director Davis continues. “Today, we recycle around 50 million pounds of recyclables in DPW-issued blue recycling bins and there’s roughly 45 million pounds of items we can recycle if diverted from our refuse stream.”

The DPW campaign is made possible through a private grant from The Recycling Partnership, the nonprofit action agent transforming the country’s residential recycling system for good. Its support and expertise in how to best communicate complex recycling topics in a simple way was invaluable in designing a message tailored to District residents.

“Through public-private partnerships, The Recycling Partnership is honored to partner with the District and communities nationwide to dramatically improve their residential recycling programs,” said Chris Coady, Director of Community Programs at The Recycling Partnership. “When the District helps people recycle the right things in the right ways, it creates a cleaner, healthier community, protects the environment, supports local jobs, and provides a valuable supply of materials to be used in new products and packaging.”

In the Spring of 22, residents can also look forward to Zero Waste DC community engagement activities.