January, for many of us, is a month for cleaning up our lives and our homes. Last year, the KonMari tidying craze gripped the DC area, with furloughed government workers and contractors stuck at home during the shutdown. Apartment Therapy does a “January Cure” every year – a 20-day guide to cleaning and decluttering in preparation for the year ahead. The result of both is the same: boxes and bags of full of stuff that need to be donated or trashed.
I don’t know about you, but I find figuring out what to do with what we don’t use anymore or our waste is complicated and challenging. The original version of this article in December 2018 came about when one foot got wet working the polls during the rainy Election Day. I had been wearing my very dependable clogs for over 20 years. They had been resoled a number of times, but they both had developed sizable cracks. I realized it was time to say goodbye. The big question was whether to trash or somehow find a new home or use for them. This led me to a deep dive into how we should dispose of our waste and this is what I found out.
A good place to start is the the District government’s own Zero Waste DC website.
What can we recycle?
Zero Waste DC’s recycling page describes what plastic, metal and paper we can put in our DPW recycling bins. (High-rise residential buildings use private collectors who may have different requirements. If in doubt, check with your building management.)
No plastic bags are permitted – they clog the recycling center’s machines. However, plastic bags can be recycled at many grocery stores. There are bins for plastic bags at the Giant at Van Ness on Connecticut (4303 Connecticut Avenue) at the store entrance in the parking garage, and at the Whole Foods in Tenleytown (4530 40th Street) in a bin at the entrance.
What can I do with food waste?
DPW has drop-off sites for food waste at local farmers markets. From May through November, the Van Ness Farmers Market is one of them. You can also drop off your food waste year-round at the weekend Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle and Eastern Market farmers markets. Here is a list of markets and acceptable items.
Another option is to do your own composting. Jane Solomon wrote a series of composting tips.
What about electronics, batteries and other potentially hazardous household waste?
The quickest way to get these items out of the house, attic and garage is to take them to the DC trash transfer station at Fort Totten (4900 McCormack Drive NE). It is open for residential drop-off from 8 a.m to 3 p.m. every Saturday, and on the Thursday preceding the first Saturday of the month from 1 to 5 p.m. They also do document shredding (5 medium boxes) from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month. This is what is accepted:
- Electronics (here are other drop off options)
- Batteries (The Ace Hardware at 4500 Wisconsin Avenue also accepts batteries and cellphones. Home Depot is another option.)
- Hazardous waste, such as CFL light bulbs and insecticides. Click here for a list.
- Paint (other drop off options)
Dried out latex paint cans can be put in regular trash.
What can I do with large items?
For individual homeowners, bulk trash collection is available for large items like furniture and large appliances. Call 311 or visit 311.dc.gov to schedule a time. Place the item or items at the same location your trash is regularly picked up by the Department of Public Works. The item must be in proper location no earlier than 6:30 p.m. the evening before and by 6 a.m. the day of collection.
If you live in an apartment or condo, or just can’t handle the removal yourself, you can call services such as College Hunks Hauling Junk, started by two college guys from Forest Hills, and Donation Nation, two services I have used.
And in 2018, to reduce dumping of bulk trash, the Mayor’s Office of the Clean City and Zero Waste DC started hosting monthly “Roll-Off Day” events in each ward. The first Ward 3 event was in Van Ness in February 2019. The free events collect electronics trash for recycling and still-usable furniture and other items for A Wider Circle. Here’s its wish list.
What about those worn out clogs and other apparel that’s too damaged to donate?
There’s a search box under the “What Goes Where” section of the Zero Waste DC site. Simply type in the item you wish to dispose of and it returns a list of suggestions. The top item under “shoes” is ReThread DC, a textile reuse initiative. It explains that “[m]any large scale non-profit textile collectors have relationships with secondary markets that purchase unsellable clothing for use as wiping rags and for industrial fill material.”
I discovered you can donate worn out clothes to the Georgia Avenue Thrift Store (6010 Georgia Avenue). My clogs were acceptable.
A commenter on our December 2018 article says old clothes and textiles can be dropped off at H&M stores, and new and gently worn shoes can be dropped off at DSW (the closest one is in Friendship Heights) as part of the Soles4Souls program.
Zero Waste DC also suggests repair shops, if your shoes aren’t that far gone!
All other trash goes in our green trash cans. If you’ve done your homework, there is not much left.