In hopes of aiding the environment, we separate trash our into bins: garbage and refuse in one; cardboard, newspaper, glass and plastic in another – and we feel better, expecting stuff in one bin destined for reuse, perhaps even wearing shoes one day re-manufactured from our plastic bottles.

But an investigation funded by SpotlightDC shows that DC fails to recycle, from collection and separation to monitoring and enforcing rules:

  • The majority of what residents separate gets re-mixed and winds up in landfills or incinerators; nearly 90% of recycling from large apartment buildings goes directly to dumps.
  • While Mayor Muriel Bowser touts her “Zero Waste” program where 80% or trash gets reused, the amount of trash actually recycled in DC keeps dropping, nearing 20%.
  • DC’s DPW fails to inspect loads purportedly destined for recycling or to enforce its own regulations.
  • The DC council committee in charge of recycling, chaired by Mary Cheh, has failed to oversee the plethora of laws she’s passed.

This third in a series published by Capital Community News examines the efforts of residents to recycle their waste, thwarted by the DC government’s myriad failures to execute basic tasks.

Trashed: Why So Much DC Waste Winds Up in Landfills

Recycling: From Blue Bins To Uncertainty (1st in series)

Are Curbside Recyclables Actually Recycled? (2nd in series)