Dear PoPville – Advice for Dealing with Litter?

Dear PoPville,

I’m writing to vent about all the litter blowing around Columbia heights. I know the city cut the Green Team but this is ridiculous & I’m wondering what we can do. I took photos near our house and was thinking maybe I can take more & send them to Jim Graham’s office – any other ideas? It’s too much for one or two people to keep up with. Have you noticed more trash? Anyone else?

Have others noticed that litter has increased since some funding for the Green Teams were cut?

41 Comment

  • I pick up litter as I walk in my hood and throw it out. I also keep the area in front and behind my house clean. I’ve seen some of my neighbors follow my example. So that helps some. I think it’s unfortunately up to all of us as citizens to help keep the place clean.

    • +1 Walking to and from the Metro is a good time to pick up trash and leave it in the garbage cans on the way. Also, I recommend always keeping a few napkins of paper towels in your pocket or bag which you can use to pick up the sketchier stuff. You can buy disposable latex gloves from Target, which I sometimes use on weekends when picking up larger quantities of trash.
      By all means call/write to the city and complain, but in a nutshell, we’re on our own and it’s up to us citizens to keep the place clean.

  • pick it up.

  • Mount Pleasant organizes some clean-up weekends to clean up the alleys and the like…

  • agree with posters. Unfortunately, there is just more litter than people to go around and pick it up.

    Options are, stricter fines for littering, or pick it up yourself. There is nothing wrong with picking up a little garbage here and there to keep your street clean. don’t touch the used condoms though. *shudders*

  • I don’t think its the lack of the green team–I always notice it this time of year once street sweeping has been discontinued for a while. The garbage really piles up and blows around. You can organize a cleanup or work on picking up what blows through your area, but otherwise, I think the uptick is just a natural consequence of the lack of sweeping.

  • If it is on a vacant lot and it’s more than just a few bags that you could pick up, I would say contact DCRA. I used to live next to a vacant lot that got a lot of stuff dumped in it, I mean like mattresses and old furniture. I contacted DCRA and they cleaned it up within a day or two. Mr. Helder Gil of DCRA was extremely helpful and took care of the problem twice for me.

    If it is on public land he informed me that DPW deals with that and to call 311 to report it.

  • Doesn’t this city have an Adopt-A-Street program? Nearly everywhere else I’ve lived had one, and it really works.

    • How do you contact the organization that “adopted” your street? My street is adopted by “OAR of DC,” but I’ve never seen a group come to clean up litter.

      • I am responding on behalf of the Clean City “Adopt-A-Block” program. Oar of DC’s 2 year commitment to your neighborhood expired in December and we are in the process of either renewing that commitment or taking those signs down, opening those streets to be adopted by someone else.

        We encourage you the residents, businesses, churches and other local groups to Adopt your neighborhood blocks by visiting and filling out the “Adopt-A-Block application.

  • This happens every fall/winter and is more a function of the stoppage of street cleaning.

    What Columbia Heights really needs is a BID…someone there on a daily basis to address trash and landscaping issues. I am frankly shocked that neither the U Street or Columbia Heights commercial corridors have a BID.

    The trash problem (year round) in Columbia Heights is a disgrace.

    • @joker – that is the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. I wonder though if the domination chain stores make forming a BID a bit harder.

      • Andy2,

        No, not really. Both the Downtown and Goldentriangle BIDS have lots of national chains. We just need someone to start one.

        There is about 1.2 million square feet of new building space (Apt’s, Retail, Grocery etc) in the 2 block “core” of Columbia Heights. At typical DC BID assesment rates of .05-.15 cents per sq/ft, thats anywhere from 60K a year to 180K a year in collectable BIDS taxes right there.

        That alone is enough to pay for one of those golfcart sized street sweepers and a couple people to wlk the street a few times a week and some landscaping for those moonscape like treeboxes along 14th.

        To make things easier, we could form one BID responsible for both U Street and Columbia Heights. More business and re to levy a tax against.

        There is no reason that we couldn’t have a legitimate BID in Columbia Heights.

        • I thought the problem with a BID was that businesses had to voluntarily create it (or voluntarily participate in it, or something like that) and the Columbia Heights big-box retailers weren’t interested in participating.

          • It is kinda voluntary. If there is a critical mass of businesses in the proposed area who agree, the folks who wanted to “opt out” have no choice.

            Having said that,

            And no, the original faux pas when the DCUSA negotiations were still ongoing was that the Ward Councilman Jim “Graham-stander” wanted Target to basically “be” the BID and agree to be taxed based on store revenue rather than the typical two methods of sq/footage or propoerty tax assesment.

            Graham was trying to force Target to agree to set aside one percent of the stores gross revenue to fund a BID. That Target is 160K sq/ft and at their average revenue per sq/ft of $320 a foot, they get about 51 million a year in sales through their doors.

            So Graham was asking them to set aside half million a year for the BID. This versus the $8000-$24,000 they would normally be charged under typical DC BID rates. Target obviously declined and the BID conversation didn’t go anywhere from there. I don’t blame them, the trash on the street isn’t from their store anyway and there is a big difference from being a good corporate neighbor and being fleeced.

          • So how do we get a CH BID started? I am a home owner in the neighborhood and I used to rent on Capitol Hill. There is a BID on the Hill and the difference is VERY noticeable. Just because CM Graham screwed up in the past shouldn’t mean that we are permanently disadvantaged.

            Bottom line: Who needs to do what to get a BID going?

  • I have lived on my street in Northwest for almost seven years. Not once have I seen a street sweeper clean in front of my house. I run most mornings, so I spend a five to ten minute “warmdown” picking up the trash on my block. The trash never really disappears (there’s a school up the block), but my I like to think that my effort helps a bit. Once I found a $5 bill, so I suppose if you do this long enough it practically pays for itself.

  • How about a broom and trash bag…

    It seems that every weekend, one or two of us is out cleaning the street infront of our row. Get some of your friends, have a few beers before hand, and go clean the streets.

    I don’t think you need permission for that.

  • I try to pick up litter on my block at least once a week, but it seems like there’s always new litter, sometimes just hours later.

    It’s pretty discouraging. Some of the people who live on and/or hang out on my street seem to think it’s OK to litter.

    • I have said it many times before – small crimes are ok in DC.

      Clearly no one taught the last generation what a trash can is used for.

      • Because for eons, there were no trash cans on DC streets, and ifd there were DC didn’t empty them?!?!

        There’s trash everywhere once street sweeping stops.

        • There’s trash on my block during street sweeping season, too.

          If anything, there’s more of it, as the nicer weather encourages people to linger outside.

          At least then there’s more daylight and nicer temperatures for me to pick up litter.

  • I live in northern C hghts. Once a week I pick up trash in front of my house and in the alley. I am really amazed at the stuff I pick up.

  • I pick up trash with my Block’s Litter Captian through the Foggy Bottom Association. It is annoying and I always wonder why people do not care. We use gloves and trash picker-upers, do not do cigarette butts and watch out for the dog poop.

    P.S. I am a renter.

  • Its a New Years resolution for my partner and I. We are doing 4 block faces once a week, picking up trash and recycling, walking the route we take on a normal dog walk. It might not make much of a difference, but if everyone (or even half a dozen households) on each block tried to make their block a nicer place — well, it WOULD be. We’re working toward a new “normal” in our CH neighborhood.

  • Don’t open any homeless shelters each day until all litter is picked up in a 10 block radius. Change monthly TANF benefits to be released on a weekly basis and likewise require clean streets everywhere before any funds are released.

    OK – expecting the usual objections – but even if 90% of benefit recipients are physically or otherwise unable to walk around picking up trash, that still leaves probably over a hundred people available for regular trash patrol. No overlording needed – give people the chance to establish their own respect and earn their way.

    I think an individual walking around Columbia Heights vigorously picking up trash with a vest that said “picking up trash – donations welcome” would easily clear $50.00 a day or more.

  • In the time it took you to take the photos, you could’ve just bagged the trash yourself and placed it in a bin.

  • I’ve noticed a few spots are just doomed to collect windblown trash. The wind whips it up, and deposits it in the eddy, I guess. Might as well just get a good rake and gloves, I think.

    I think the unmentioned part of this is that food packaging is crazy! Someone gave us a present with individually wrapped pretzels, each a wrapper for the kids to leave on the floor.

    • My corner house is one of those places. Can’t tell if it’s from drivers throwing it into the street or passerbys throwing onto the sidewalk. Is there a way to ask for a city trash can for a corner?

  • Just about every time I ride the bus I witness someone throwing fast food wrappers or empty drink cups out the window. Sometimes even the driver does it. The simple truth is that littering is just accepted in this city as part of the culture.

  • I love my house, I love my ‘hood. The only thing–and truly–the only thing that bums me out is the never ending flow of litter. In my yard, the street, the tree boxes, on car hoods–and its year round–never mind street cleaning. Whole bags of McDonalds trash, beer cans, Swisher sweet boxes, candy bar wrappers, an occasional article of clothing or a shoe. Honestly, I pick up trash usually on Sundays, or when suburban friends come over. I’m not even a neatnik, but it is just intolerable sometimes. Did not everyone get the message about littering? I see people just dump trash out of their cars when they park. Really?

    And we’ve got trash cans on quite a few corners, but not enough.

    Some people hang garbage bags on their fences for everyone to use–a low tech intervention but appreciated.

    The answer? Sure, pick it up. But that’s not the answer. I think it is fines, or working with the schools to educate kids about littering and recycling–and have them “mentor up” to their families.

  • Why are so many DC sidewalktrash bins full of obviously household trash? That’s reason enough to get rid of the cans (as New York has done in some neighborhoods) or nab the sleezebags who drop their nicely bagged home garbage there.

    I pick up litter from our side of the block every morning. It feels like the right thing to do.

    • I confess that I’ve had to do that at times. However, dumping my household trash in the city bin is something I only have to resort to when my neighbors illegally dump their trash in my trash cans. (If it gets dark before they’re locked in the backyard, they’re full again.) It’s a carousel of illegal dumping. But that’s another issue.

  • Work on getting a bottle bill adopted in DC. It wouldn’t take care of all of the trash, but incentivizing individuals to pick up the cans and glass and plastic bottles to claim the 10 cent deposit on them would significantly reduce the amount of litter, as it has done in the 12 states that have adopted bottle bills.

    • Duh! Of course! I can’t believe I hadn’t thought about that! I moved here from Boston where we have a can/bottle bill and people picked up those items all day long (mainly in shopping carts)–of course–sometimes they made more trash by sorting through public cans to find their booty–but I bet it would keep 90% of cans and bottles off of our streets if people were had a cash incentive to return them!!!

  • I was tired of the inconsiderate neighbors from across the alley. They put their trash in my trash can, they live their trash cans outside at all times, they leave trash bags on the ground, and recently that activity allow the rates to ravage through the content of the trash bag that they had left on the ground. The bag was not picked up by trash technician for three weeks (apparently trash has to be in the trash can for it to be picked up) and the owners did nothing to fix it… so the contents continue to scatter trash around there until, of course, I decided to go clean it for them.
    This is for all alley neighbors, please be nice and clean up. Put away your trash cans after trash has been collected until the next trash date. Left in the alley, it gets damaged by passing cars, they block the alley, and they encourage trash. After all the trash cans cost money now.

  • Good advice is to just pick it up. Sure it’s not fair, but you’re the better person.

  • Green team or no green team these are OUR streets and it is up to us to HELP keep them clean. Sadly the people who walk through them don’t give a damn and use them as their trash cans even when there are cans all around. My husband and I clean our street of paper, glass bottles, etc…, every other week and sometimes every week as needed. We start at the alley entrance armed with a pair of gloves and a huge trash bag which is usually filled by the time we make it to the city can on 14th.

    I don’t think there is more trash it is just that without the green team nobody is picking it up.

Comments are closed.