The June 21 front-page article “A greener nation puts recyclers, cities in the red” described emerging financial concerns for the recycling business, focusing in part on the fact that nonrecyclable waste is being improperly placed in the District’s recycling bins. In describing the problem, Hallie Clemm, the District’s recycling chief, said, “Residents have a way to influence this by making sure they are recycling right.”
I agree. Yet I have thoroughly researched the city’s recycling policies, brochures and informational Web sites, and I still am unsure what to put in my blue bin. If someone who made a considerable time investment can remain confused, how can the average citizen become informed?
The District’s recycling program Web site states that everything but four items can be recycled: styrofoam, “clamshell” packaging, foam packaging and pizza boxes. An in-depth search reveals a one-page flier with a more extensive list of prohibited items, but it does not provide clear reasons those items are not recyclable. Lastly, in an e-mail exchange with D.C. Department of Public Works staff two years ago, I was told that the District can recycle only “hard plastic” — not “soft plastic.” Where the line is between “hard” and “soft” is anyone’s guess.
It is not that citizens are apathetic but that information is lacking. Much can be done: A simple educational campaign and better, correct signage would go a long way. Otherwise, Ms. Clemm will be able to repeat her statement for years to come.
Andy Byrne, Washington