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District Launches “Feet on the Street” Campaign to Educate Residents on Reducing Recycling Contamination

Monday, September 30, 2019
Department of Public Works inspectors will target bins containing plastic bags, wraps, films, and other non-recyclable items

This week, the Bowser Administration, through the Department of Public Works (DPW), is launching a “Feet on the Street” education campaign to help reduce contamination in residential recycling collections, with a particular focus on keeping plastic bags, wraps, and films out of recycling bins. DPW inspectors will be armed with “Oops” tags to place on bins found to contain non-recyclable items. The tagging campaign will be conducted on routes that have been reported to have high contamination by our collection crews and will run through America Recycles Day, which is Nov. 15.

“Reducing contamination in recycling bins is just one example of how Mayor Bowser’s Zero Waste initiative is building a more sustainable DC,” said DPW Director Christopher Geldart. “We’re calling on residents to help the District become a greener, healthier, more livable city by keeping common contaminants such as plastic bags out of the recycling bin.”

Inspectors will be tagging bins that include plastic bags, wraps, and films, but also will be on the lookout for other non-recyclable items such as clothing, yard waste, food waste, “tanglers” (ropes and chains), furniture, and scrap metal.

The Recycling Partnership, a leading force for improving recycling through public and private partnerships, considers tagging bins a best practice for fighting contamination and improving the quantity and quality of recyclables.

“We have seen great success in other U.S. cities like Atlanta, Chicago and Denver with the ‘Feet on the Street’ campaign, which gives residents instant feedback on what is and is not recyclable,” said Cody Marshall, Chief Community Strategy Officer at The Recycling Partnership. “We are excited to work with the District to capture more quality recyclables that are then transformed into new materials, creating a healthier economy, a less wasteful planet, and stronger, healthier communities.”

The District conducted a smaller scale tagging campaign in October 2018, in collaboration with the Recycling Partnership, that targeted recycling bins containing bagged recyclables and plastic bags. One week of tagging resulted in a 20 percent reduction of plastic bags and film in the targeted route.

District residents can learn more about should and should not go in their recycling bins by visiting