A bill setting up one of the area's toughest trash recycling programs was introduced in the D.C. Council yesterday as part of a regional effort to reduce the amount of waste put in landfills and incinerators.
Under the bill, sponsored by council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), residents would be required to separate newspapers and yard waste, such as leaves, grass, and twigs, from their regular household trash. At present, D.C. residents put trash of all types in large cans provided by the city.
"Our landfill space is being used up," Winter declared. "We are burying whole refrigerators, tons and tons of paper, bottles, metal and leaves -- materials that should be reused."
Also, the council gave final approval to a controversial measure aimed at reducing the costs of emergency shelters for homeless families. The measure, which would provide apartment-style units, would for the first time require families sheltered by the city to help pay the government's cost.
The recycling bill was introduced after a meeting last week of representatives of eight area jurisdictions who formed a new recycling committee as part of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Trevis Markle, COG's assistant director of environmental programs, said that rapid development in the area has made it more difficult to find landfills for trash. New incinerators have encountered strong opposition, although several major ones are under construction or being planned.
"Just about every major metropolitan area in the country is having trouble disposing of its trash," Markle said. "We're no exception. We have to do more recycling."
Only two major local jurisdictions -- Alexandria and the suburban trash collection district in Montgomery County -- require residents to separate newspapers from other trash. A few smaller jurisdictions, such as the Town of Chevy Chase, require the separation of yard waste and household trash.
Nine months after the D.C. bill would go into effect, it would become even tougher. The mayor would designate at least three other materials that would have to be separated at curbside. The additional materials would be chosen from a list that includes glass bottles, plastic containers, aluminum cans, organic wastes and other paper products.
The bill would require that the city government establish at least eight "buy-back centers" in which private companies would pay the public for recyclable materials. Appliance dealers would be given a tax credit of 10 percent of the purchase price of any new appliance they deliver if they cart away the appliance it replaces.
Also, the bill would force the city government to buy recycled paper products unless they cost 10 percent more than other paper goods.
The council's emergency shelter bill is aimed at reducing the cost of housing homeless families by placing them in apartment-style units to be leased or purchased by the city.
For the first time, the measure requires homeless families sheltered at the government's expense to pay monthly fees, which would cover reasonable shelter costs for families receiving public assistance payments while housed in government apartment units. Other families with incomes would be required to pay, after certain deductions, up to 30 percent of their income into an escrow account to be used later by the families to cover permanent housing expenses.
The fees were the subject of a long council debate yesterday after council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2) asked that the fees be limited to 5 percent of a family's income. Wilson argued that in general people do not save more than 5 percent of their income and that the measure demands too much of the poor.
Other council members disagreed, saying they believed that the fee schedule forces homeless families to take greater responsibility. Without such a requirement, the families would end up "with expectations that somebody is going to take care of them," said council member Frank Smith Jr. (D-Ward 1).
Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), who sponsored the family bill, said any suggestion to reduce the fee was "nonsense" because the city already covers substantial costs for homeless families.