Garbage collection goes haywire in the nation’s capital

| May 29, 2014

In a perfect example of “good concept; poor execution,” Washington, D.C. has itself in a bit of a garbage debacle. Interestingly, the debacle has nothing to do with garbage itself.  Instead, the problem is with the garbage containers.

Here’s what happened: D.C. decided to replace the city’s household garbage cans. It was an understandable decision, since residents had been using the same (undoubtedly stinky) containers for a decade, dutifully rolling them out to the curb each week.

garbage cans

D.C.’s attempt to give residents new garbage cans did not go smoothly. From Intangible Arts.

However, as soon as the 210,000 new garbage containers were rush-delivered, the complaints started. For starters, the city didn’t pick up all of the old containers. (According to the Washington Post, the city “assumed residents wouldn’t want to relinquish that many old [garbage] cans.” That assumption led to “tens of thousands” of garbage cans abandoned all over the place.

Not a pretty sight.

The city quickly recognized the error in judgment and, in a “massive expenditure of overtime,” dispatched crews to clean up the old garbage cans.

Except that didn’t go well, either.

The city had provided “Take Me!” stickers for residents to mark garbage cans that were no longer wanted. It seems that those stickers didn’t “stick” very well, leading to a lot of confusion about which cans should be taken. Apparently, many residents reported that the clean-up blitz was so frenzied, it resulted in the retrieval of new garbage cans as well as the old, abandoned ones. Some residents even said that city workers tread onto private property to scoop up new garbage cans. (Yes, the garbage cans that had just been delivered.)

Still more residents claim that they never received new cans in the first place.

Confused yet? That’s not all. The entire original distribution of new garbage cans was widely denounced as an election-year “stunt.”

Now an ostensibly straightforward effort has generated frustration and drained a lot of resources. We’ll give the city the benefit of the doubt and assume that they were well-intentioned, though a spokeswoman for the public works department was not “immediately” prepared to make a comment to the Washington Post.

Forgive us for saying this, but we can’t resist: Perhaps everyone should have just focused on recycling, anyway…

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Category: Recycling programs, Regulations

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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