Recycling Right!

Getting 2020 Off to a Green Start

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Now that the party season has passed, tis the season for New Year’s resolutions – and decluttering. Recycling is evolving in the US and in DC, and there are new rules and new programs to help you improve, and expand, your recycling practices. Here are a few areas to focus on.

Don’t Bag Recyclables in Plastic
Plastic bags clog recycling machinery, and a single bag caught in a conveyer belt gear can shut down a recycling center for an entire day – or longer. Recycling facility managers are all too aware of the havoc that plastic bags can cause, and staff are instructed to remove any plastic bags from conveyer belts, so the bags – and all their wonderful recyclable content, are sent to the landfill. To ensure your recyclables are recycled, place them directly in the recycling bin.

Yes, Virginia, holiday lights can be recycled! Photo: C. Plume

Recycling Holiday Lights
Unfortunately, most holiday lights are difficult to fix once they burn out. Through the end of January, Mom’s Organic Market locations (including the location at 1501 New York Ave. NE) will recycle working or non-working holiday lights. They’ll be transferred to a recycling center where raw materials will be recovered and reused to create any number of products, from roofing to flatware. Meanwhile, consider investing in LED holiday lights, which last longer and run on a minimal amount of electricity. They may be on sale!

DC Is Changing Procedures for Recycling Holiday Trees and Wreaths
Trees and wreaths will be collected from Dec. 27 to Jan. 31. Residents in households served by the Department of Public Works should call 311 between Dec. 27 and Jan. 10 to schedule a collection date. All ornaments and lights should be removed, and trees and greenery should be placed in front of the home for collection and composting. Do not place trees and greenery in bags.

After Jan. 31, greenery should be placed next to your trash bin, for collection with the trash as truck space permits. Unfortunately, trees and greenery collected after Jan. 31 will not be composted. And, remember, this compost is free to DC residents, so when you’re looking to improve the soil quality of your yard or garden, just head up to Fort Totten for compost any weekday from 1 to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Recycle Food Scraps
When food waste goes to a landfill, it generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is much more toxic than carbon dioxide and contributes to global warming. The DC government is now providing vouchers of up to $75 to incentivize home composting. Importantly, both worm-composting and backyard systems are included in the program, so you don’t have to have a backyard in order to participate. To receive a voucher, you’ll need to participate in a short class. For more information, see https://zerowaste.dc.gov/homecomposting.

If home composting isn’t for you, you can still drop off food scraps at Eastern Market every Saturday at the station located next to Rumsey Pool.

Dispose of Electronics Properly
Batteries embedded in electronics can cause fires at landfills and waste-incineration facilities, so putting electronics in the trash bin is not allowed. For working electronics that you’re ready to pass along, Craigslist DC, Facebook Marketplace and even eBay offer online venues for selling these goods.

Meanwhile, if you’re in a hurry to get rid of items, offer them for free on neighborhood Listservs such as NextDoor, TrashNothing DC and Craigslist “Free Stuff.”

If you’re looking to donate electronics, consider Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores, Community Forklift, Value Village, Salvation Army and Goodwill. Many of these organizations will pick up your items and provide a donation receipt.

For those electronics that don’t work anymore, take them to Fort Totten on any Saturday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. or drop them off at one of the District’s Roll Off Days, scheduled in each ward.

Reuse, Borrow, Rent
Did you know that the DC Public Library has a wealth of digital books and audiobooks that you can borrow? It also offers online classes through the Library Express program. In addition to many other programs, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation has a great tool-share program that any DC resident over 18 years of age can sign onto. See https://dpr.dc.gov/service/garden-tool-share-program.

Frager’s Hardware offers a wide array of rental goods including tools and party supplies, while Craigslist, eBay, Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace are excellent sources for finding used but functioning goods.

What are your plans for getting 2020 off to a green start?

Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, a writer and a blogger for the DC Recycler: www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler. She is also the vice chair of the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, but the perspectives expressed here are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization.