New recycling and trash bins coming to D.C. households

November 25, 2013

The city’s recycling bins are getting bigger: The old 32-gallon cans (left) will be replaced next year with new 48-gallon and 64-gallon cans. (Mike DeBonis/The Washington Post)

Relief is coming for D.C. residents who have had to deal with aging trash cans and too-small recycling cans: City officials said Monday that all 75,000 District households served by city haulers will have new receptacles by July.

The move, Mayor Vincent C. Gray said, is meant to replace trash cans that, in many cases, have not been replaced in over a decade, while also accommodating increased recycling volume. “This is a strong statement,” he said. “We are committed to recycling and sustainability.”

Also, he said, “There are some pretty beat-up cans out there.”

Households that receive once-a-week trash pickup will get a new 96-gallon “Supercan” — same size as the old trash bins — plus a new 64-gallon recycling bin — twice the size of current bins. In neighborhoods receiving twice-a-week trash pickup, mostly located in denser center-city areas, households will get new 32-gallon trash cans plus new, bigger 48-gallon recycling bins to handle those once-a-week pickups.

An $11.1 million contract for the new bins has been sent to the D.C. Council for final approval. Barring hiccups, the new bins should hit the streets and alleys starting in January. Once-a-week households are first in line to get the new bins; those whose weekly trash day is Friday will be the very first, with the sequence moving backward through the days of the week. Twice-a-week households will follow in the same reverse days-of-the-week order.

The old cans will be collected and recycled, said Bill Howland, director of the D.C. Department of Public Works. But he said households are free to keep their old cans if they wish. The new cans will be made from 40 percent recycled plastic, and the recycling bins for the first time will have a list of accepted materials stamped on them.

Howland said the oldest cans are now more than 12 years old, and in some cases vermin have gnawed through them, making them a sanitation risk. And he said he expects larger bins to improve the city’s recycling performance. Recycling collections have increased from 20 percent of the total amount hauled by the city in 2006, Howland said, to 27 percent of the total hauled today. That’s still well short of a 45 percent goal set by District law in 1988.

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who chairs the council committee on environmental matters, said she was “delighted” by larger recycling bins. “This is where people are heading,” she said.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · November 25, 2013