Between being named the first LEED Platinum city in the world, instituting a plastic bag tax and declaring its ongoing commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, Washington, D.C. is leading the way in urban sustainability. Despite the progress, there are still opportunities for the D.C. area to advance, and one of the biggest areas for improvement is the waste stream.
Meeting the challenges of diverting waste
Because D.C.’s single-stream recycling program allows all recyclable materials to be co-mingled in one bin, facilities that sort through the waste have their work cut out for them. For example, a materials recovery facility in Montgomery County, Maryland, has had to sort through items that should never have been recycled in the first place, such as electronics, plastic bags and even dirty diapers. D.C.’s zero waste office says that contamination in recycling is one of its biggest obstacles.
The second biggest obstacle that is keeping D.C. from reaching its target waste diversion rate of 80 percent by 2032 is that commercial properties are not recycling properly—and some aren’t recycling at all. By law, all businesses in the District are required to separate and collect recyclable materials, but in 2017, D.C.’s Solid Waste Education and Enforcement Program team issued 390 tickets to properties that were not meeting the minimum standards for recycling and waste management.
Launching a campaign to raise awareness with businesses
USGBC National Capital Region is stepping up to tackle the District's waste problem. We are launching a zero waste campaign aimed at improving Washington, D.C.’s waste diversion rate by educating the city’s restaurants and retailers about Zero Waste DC’s existing campaign and goals, D.C.’s current recycling requirements and other opportunities to divert waste from the dump. Using GBCI's new TRUE Zero Waste certification program as a guide, we want to make zero waste a reality in DC, and we need your help!
We are looking for a task force of volunteers who are passionate about zero waste and eager to share their urban sustainability aspirations with their favorite businesses. Businesses want their customers to be happy, so by using the power of your voice (and your dollar!), you can encourage businesses to do their part to help get trash out of D.C. The call for volunteers will go out in our newsletter in the next few weeks.
Because this campaign belongs to the people of D.C. who want to make a difference, we want you to name the campaign. Put your creativity and imagination to the test, and submit any name ideas to us by Fri., August 31. Finalists will be voted on via social media (our handle is @USGBCNCR) between Tues., September 4 and Fri., September 14.