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Petite Desk Bins Have Workers Talking Trash

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 25, 2004; Page DZ02

At City Hall these days, less is more. At least when it comes to trash.

Beginning this week, employees in the John A. Wilson Building found their usual metal desk-side garbage cans replaced by six-inch-tall cylinders that are supposed to be placed on top of the desks.

D.C. Council member Harold Brazil, right, helps to hustle Adam Eidinger, left, offstage after Eidinger started heckling leaders over their baseball plans. (Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

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"What are we supposed to do with these?" asked Sean Metcalf, a spokesman for Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). "This has to be a joke, right?"

Another staff member insisted on keeping her old metal trash can, refusing to let a worker remove it.

The new receptacles look like toys, but, in fact, they are known as Mini-Bins and were distributed by the city's Office of Property Management.

The idea is to force D.C. government employees to recycle more waste, officials said. With a tiny trash can, employees will be more likely to get up and recycle the paper, magazines, newspapers, bottles, cans and cardboard boxes that make up most of their trash each day.

D.C. officials have set a goal of getting 45 percent of the city's waste recycled. But only about 13 percent of it is recycled by residents, while government workers recycled about 12.5 percent of their waste in fiscal year 2003.

In a brochure that came with each Mini-Bin, officials described the program as having two simple steps.

First, each "Mini" should be used only for food, candy wrappers and used napkins. Second, employees should take all other materials to "Multi-ports," which are located on each floor of the building and have slots for the various recyclables.

Alyssa Turner, a manager at the Office of Property Management, said that some employees gave up their larger trash cans "kicking and screaming."

"They were like, 'What is this?' " Turner said. "But it really works. It's just a change of habit."

Five hundred Mini-Bins were distributed, one to each person in the Wilson Building. If the pilot program is successful, Turner said, the program probably will be expanded to other city government offices.

For employees trying to get used to the idea, the brochure's fine print noted another new requirement: "It is recommended that you empty your Mini at least once a day or as needed. . . . Please note the custodial staff will no longer go desk to desk to collect trash or recyclables."

Metcalf frowned. "I don't even throw away my garbage at home," he said, "and now they expect me to get up and throw it away here?"

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