In the District, spring is the time when all haul breaks loose.
This year it began on March 29, when Mayor Marion Barry launched the city's fifth annual spring cleanup. The "Make a Visible Difference" drive lasts until June 6, and should yield about 100 million pounds of trash, according to Anne Hoey, the city's public space maintenance administrator.
Starting this year, the city has the help of an upright enemy of urban disarray: the Clean Can. "We saw a dramatic improvement" in neighborhood cleanliness with the introduction of the 90-gallon Supercans in 1981, said Department of Public Works spokeswoman Tara Hamilton.
So this year, 28,000 of the 32-gallon plastic Clean Cans have been distributed in wards 1, 2 and 6, in areas where the Supercans would be unwieldy because of their larger size, Hoey said. All residences served by city trash crews have now been given one of the two types of receptacles, she said.
As another part of the seasonal cleanup, the city has sent out crews that will refuse no refuse. Refrigerators that have lost their cool, exhausted mattresses, televisions that have seen their last rays and bureaus that have dropped their drawers will be taken away from the yards of the citizenry, ward by ward.
"Somebody has a washing machine out; that's good. Somebody has their address on the can; that's good," Hoey said recently as she inspected Clean Can usage and bulk collection while driving through Ward 1. Stacked for collection on Euclid Street NW were the wood, the bad, and the ugly: piled twigs, a battered stereo, rotted wall paneling.
Maneuvering down a narrow alley, Hoey pointed to several Clean Cans, neatly arranged in back yards.
"As you can see, it's the only can lots of people have," Hoey said. Households without cans put out trash in plastic bags, which can be spilled or chewed open by pets or rodents, leaving debris scattered throughout the neighborhood, she said.
Clean Cans cost $7.40 each, while the 70,000 Supercans cost the city $36.97 each. The Supercan program cost about $2.5 million to start up in 1981, Hoey said.
Collections from Supercans are made only once a week, saving the city $2 million a year in collection costs.
Waste Age, the publication of the National Solid Wastes Management Association, reported in February that of the hundreds of municipalities that now supply homes with receptacles, only Memphis, with 190,000 receptacles, has more than Washington.
District crews collect trash from private homes and residential complexes with fewer than four units.
Larger properties and businesses must maintain dumpsters and use a hauling company licensed by the city.
Trash is hauled to its pungent, if not poignant, end at the city incinerator near RFK Stadium, or to a city-run landfill in Lorton. Last year more than half a million tons of trash met their doom at the heavily gloved hands of public works crews, which also hauled about 12,000 dead animals and 7,000 abandoned cars from the streets of the capital.
"Expectations of the citizens here are very high" on cleanliness, Hoey said.
City Council member Nadine Winter (D-Ward 6) sponsored the Litter Control Administration Act of 1985, which will authorize fines to keep public space clean. Hoey expects the law to take effect early this summer.
"We've decided we've got to switch gears from more service to more education," Hoey said.
With this year's spring effort, Hoey said, the idea of a clean Washington seems popular.
"This year's Ward 1 collection broke tonnage records," Hoey said, "And Ward 2 is rolling."