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. This all came to a head when one foot got wet working the polls on our rainy Election Day. I had been wearing my very dependable clogs of over 20 years. They had been resoled a number of times, but they both had sizable cracks in the soles. I realized it was time to say goodbye. The big question was whether to trash or give them away. 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. The Van Ness Farmers Market is one of them, from May through November. 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 household waste?
Fort Totten, located at 4900 McCormack Drive, NE, is the place to go. 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:
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. If you have other tips and recommendations, let us know.
What about those worn out clogs and other unwanted apparel?
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), the closest store I have found. My clogs were acceptable.
The search 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.