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Recycling scandal hits D.C.

| June 4, 2014

The hit ABC show “Scandal” tackles gossipy, headline-worthy debacles in our nation’s capital. The scandals on that show are fake, but we have some good fodder in case they ever want to cover a real D.C. scandal.

We recently wrote about the mess surrounding D.C.’s garbage can upgrade. A quick recap, in case you missed it: After 10 years, the powers that be in D.C. decided to upgrade their garbage cans. They scrambled to distribute more than 200,000 garbage cans, but there was a major snag with retrieving the old garbage cans. Abandoned old garbage cans littered the streets, and when D.C. dispatched a crew to retrieve the old cans in an all-out blitz, they got a bit overzealous and scooped up some of the new cans as well.

recycling scandal

Witnesses saw their old recycling bins thrown out with the trash. From Peter Kaminski.

As if that wasn’t enough of a headache, the story has only become messier (and stranger) from there. Here’s what has happened since we left off:

First, a local artist was arrested after he attempted to “upcycle” the abandoned, old garbage cans into flowerpots. Since officials went through the trouble to take legal action against someone who allegedly misused the discarded garbage cans, you’d think that meant they had lofty plans for those old cans.

Ostensibly, they did have lofty plans. Publicly, officials claimed that the thousands of discarded cans would be recycled.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

According to the Washington Post, “[D.C.] City officials admitted…that sanitation crews dumped at least 12 truckloads of plastic bins.” In other words, they trashed the trash cans.

Whoops.

Those 12 truckloads amounted to “at least a third” of the 16,000 discarded cans that were collected.

As it turns out, 5,000 or more discarded trash cans make quite an impact. The Washington Post reports that D.C. resident Theresa Ahmann dropped off a load of trash at the city’s Fort Totten Transfer Station and became an eyewitness to the scandal. She was reportedly “aghast at the sight of more than 100 crushed trash and recycling bins mixed with two mountains of garbage.”

The irony of a recycling bin ending up in a landfill is not lost on any of us.

D.C. Public Works Director William Howland’s spokeswoman Linda Grant cited urgency around removing the cans, which were apparently congesting alleyways and compromising public safety. Apparently, sending the cans to a landfill was a faster way to get rid of them.

We’re not in a position to comment on whether Howland’s spokeswoman’s comments justify trashing the trash cans, but we can say that we always advocate for recycling whenever possible.

One thing we can say with certainty: the $9 million price tag of the new trash cans now looks rather paltry in comparison to the cost of the scandal that has ensued in the wake of the project’s poor execution. It looks like D.C. will be sweeping up after this issue for some time.

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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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