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May 10, 2017

Help Restore DC Recycling Funds!

Wed May 10, 2017 at 05:20:44 PM EST

By Chris Weiss, DC Environmental Network

Budget Focus: Help Restore Recycling Funds to DPW!

DC Environmental Network:

In just one week, the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment will hold a budget mark-up for the Department of Public Works.

The DC Environmental Network’s primary goal at this mark-up is to restore $447,000 in funds slashed from District recycling programs by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. These recycling cuts include the elimination of two DPW Office of Waste Diversion staff positions and additional monies for moving important recycling programs forward.

There is quite a bit at stake at this mark-up. Here’s why:

Since 2014, under two administrations, Councilmember Cheh has been engaged in a reorganization of the District’s waste management priorities. When it comes to recycling, the District of Columbia has long been a regional underachiever with waste diversion (recycling) rates holding steady around 25% (if that) even as surrounding jurisdictions record diversion rates closer to 60%. Not a good place for our nation’s capital city!

In 2014 Councilmember Cheh introduced the “Sustainable Solid Waste Management Amendment Act of 2014” designed to modify how the District develops its solid waste priorities and update how the District manages its solid waste system. Important to recycling, this law created the Office of Waste Diversion. This is an office that should be focusing a lot of attention on the idea of sustainable waste diversion, and how DC might someday have a respectable recycling rate.

On July 14, 2014, this law, was unanimously passed by the entire DC Council and signed soon after by former Mayor Vincent Gray. Supporters included Councilmember’s Cheh, McDuffie, Alexander, Bonds, Catania, Evans, Grosso, Orange, Wells, Barry, Chairman Mendelson, and even Mayor Muriel Bowser, the last year of her time as a Councilmember.

Which makes it all that much more surprising that for the last two budget cycles, Mayor Bowser has chosen to weaken DPW’s Office of Waste Diversion by not filling important positions and undermining the office’s ability to make meaningful progress in overhauling our failed recycling programs.

What does the Office of Waste Diversion need these resources for?

The good news is that despite the lack of commitment to recycling by the Executive, as reflected by budget priorities, for the first time in decades, DPW has a Director that believes in it. DPW Director Shorter has started to put in place a good team at the Office of Waste Diversion, and the agency is doing a decent job of taking care of their statutory requirements. DCEN believes that transparency, and the quality of implementation of existing programs, has improved the last two years. But that is not enough!

DCEN believes that what is on the table now is not enough to make the necessary changes that will result in meaningful improvements to recycling in the District.

The Office of Waste Diversion needs more staff to start doing the research and planning necessary to move the District towards being a zero-waste city.

That’s why we are asking the Council to restore funding for two Office of Waste Diversion staffers, as well as restoring nonpersonel funds that could be used for research and planning.

To help Mayor Bowser make progress before her first term is up, we are also asking that some of the nonpersonel funds be used to put a Request for Proposals (RFP) out to plan and implement a Save As You Throw pilot. Save As You Throw is a usage pricing model for disposing of municipal solid waste, that could help District ratepayers save money, reduce green-house gas emissions, and increase DC per capita recycling rates.

[Restoring recycling funds will help the District do the planning necessary to see if Save as You Throw (or PAYT as shown in graphic) can help improve the District’s recycling rate. Graphic by: WasteZero, April 2017]


This would be a meaningful step towards researching what recycling improvement options are available to the District. We believe a Save As You Throw pilot could help us do a better job of planning our zero-waste future.

What can we all do to help restore funds for recycling?

To start, please consider signing the petition that zero waste advocates will be delivering to the DC Council next week. If you are interested in doing more, contact me at 202-380-3440 or email

We need to get this done in the next seven days!

Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network 

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