Dear PoPville – Are Others Getting Recycling Fines?

Photo by PoPville flickr user ep_jhu

“Dear PoPville,

I am the President of the Condo Board at a building on the 1400 block of Columbia Rd. Our trash and recycling are located in the alley between Irving and Columbia. We have been slammed over the past few months with recycling fines including the “not enough bins” fine and the “mixing recycling and trash” fine. The best part is that the fines are always delayed in reaching us and then we get charged late fees, as well. While, of course, my building should do a better job of recycling, I can’t help but feel we are are being targeted. Are other buildings in the area or outside of the area receiving an increased number of fines?

I wish I could say our fines are helping to beautify or clean up the alley, but sadly the alley has litter all over the place and always smells like urine, especially near the 14th St. entrance. Draining the money from a condo association to feed a budget surplus does not seem smart or good for the city.”

28 Comment

  • Big mistake trying to comply with recycling. I live in a condo also in 14th street and we never do recycling, we have a regular trash bin from a private company and we do not do recycling. No ticket.

    • Any privately owned apartment building in DC – such as the OPs – must contract with a private company to pick up trash. Don’t get high and mighty – your building just hasn’t been caught yet.
      My rental company sent a nasty email to the residents in my bldg that they had recently been levied fines for mixing trash and recyclables. They scolded us like a bunch of school children, it was really condescending. I live in the U Street area, btw.

  • Fees are charged for those breaking the law and are not intended to clean up your alley

    – as you say, you should be doing a better job of recycling.

    That is your issue, especially since you recognize it.

  • If we implemented the 5 cent payback on plastic bottles and cans we’d have the cleanest city in the US, but somehow the city thinks that making recycling mandatory and fining people for noncompliance is better. Negative reinforcement.

    • Totally agree. In what universe does it make sense to have a plastic bag fee to discourage use of plastic bags and at the same time not do bottle deposits? I see people throw plastic bottles down storm drains all the time, which makes the flooding issues in certain areas (looking at you, Bloomingdale) even worse!

      • I think it would be best to keep the plastic bag fee AND have bottle deposits.
        I was a little skeptical of the plastic bag fee when it was introduced (I was thinking, “But _I_ don’t throw my bags down storm drains! I reuse them as trash bags, or recycle them!), but I’ve come to think that it’s a good thing for D.C. overall. Having moved to a neighborhood with a disturbing amount of non-bag litter — plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass bottles, snack wrappers, styrofoam plates, etc. — that I pick up on a regular basis, I can only imagine how many plastic bags must have been flying around in the days before the bag fee.
        Remember that the plastics industry has done its best in D.C. and elsewhere to fight bag fees. I imagine they’d lobby hard against bottle/can deposits too, but I think deposits would be a great thing.

        • I agree with you 100%. The bag tax has proved how effectively a small charge can radically change behavior. Having relatives in upstate NY, it’s incredible to see the lengths to which some folks will go to collect and redeem bottle deposits. Seems like a win-win-win: cleaner streets and waterways, less stuff in the landfills, and a meager source of income for people who do the collecting.

    • saf


      Once upon a time, a bottle bill was proposed. The beverage industry’s fight against it was epic. Here:

    • The plastic bag industry doesn’t have a multi-million dollar lobbying arm. The bottling industry (and, by proxy, the beverage industry) has a HUGE one. Go after styrofoam boxes next. That seems next up the food chain.

      • Bags have a simple alternative (bring your own) and bottles are (relatively) clean before recycling. What is your proposal for styrofoam containers? People should bring their own random container to take out joints or pay a fee? There should be a deposit on them so somewhere there will be a storehouse of moldering, food-contaminated styrofoam? Seems impractical.

  • It’s not just your building. My building in Dupont Circle has experienced the same problem – someone, maybe not even someone who lives in the building, throws something recyclable into the dumpster (private collection), then a few weeks later we get the fine + late fees. I think appealing will just get you more late fees. Maybe complain to ANC rep or councilperson?

  • It’s not just your building. Our building (Adams Morgan) has private collection and we got slapped with a fine too recently for an overflowing recycling bin. It was $200 as well. Also, our bins are on our property, not in the alley. They are in our garage; so we are not contributing to alley trash in any way, unless somehow the recycling were to blow 15+ feet out into the alley.

  • Yup – our building in Adams Morgan (private collection) has gotten fines over the past six months. The board has sent reminder notices to residents and it seems to have helped, but I get the feeling that the inspectors will continue to go back to buildings where they know they have a good chance of finding non-compliance. So in that sense, yes, you are being targeted, but you’re not the only one…

  • I only have experience with fines for personal trash cans, but I will say they definitely target. Our alley was on our inspector’s list for two months or so – she would come on Tuesdays. We are assuming our alley was targeted bc we put too many “clean alley” requests in. The fines are ridiculous and since they cannot fine illegal dumping, they fine whatever house is close/trash can they can identify/loose piece of mail the can find. It’s just part of living in DC. I would suggest try to clean up and wait until they move on.

  • It’s not just your building. My building near H St. NE (private collection) received one 2 weeks ago– for a violation they said occured 2 months ago. It wasn’t mailed, they just posted it on the front door.

  • Just to clarify, DC has a disposable bag fee that requires businesses that sell food or alcohol to charge customers 5 cents for BOTH plastic AND paper bags.

  • I manage our 4-unit building in Logan Circle. We were also fined $150 in July for an overflowing recycling bin. It was overflowing that particular week, and we asked our trash company to add a bin. No more issues. But I did contest the violation with the City and have a hearing on Monday. I figure it’s at least 50/50 that the Inspector shows up.

  • My condo building at 14th and Chapin was hit hard last year with fines — and I personally received one as well — We felt that we were being targeted as well. Appeals were made, and it was worth while. In my case, I personally went before the appeal judge along with my room mate, we brought pictures and documents. The judge ruled in our favor with prejudice against DPW. As for the building we paid some fines and appealed others. In every case where we appealed a fine, we won. One thing that the condo association did was increase the number of recycling bins from 5 to 8 and increased out weekly pick-up of re-cycling from once a week to twice a week. We also did an outreach to our owners and residents, The result, while we had numerous fines in 2012, we have not received a single find in 2013.

    One final word about how fines are received, DPW rules require that fine notices must be sent by certified mail. We had a case in the building where a resident went to his hearing and when he told the judge that he received his fine notice by a posting on his door, the judge threw the case out with prejudice against DPW.

    • That’s interesting – our building has always just received them taped to the front gate, as far as I know, unless they are sending them certified mail to our management company. Good to know for future cases…

      We did the same thing – got an extra recycling bin and increased pick-up to twice a week. It really helped.

  • Our condo has also experienced fines; however, we have a huge problem with other neighbors (in single family homes) dumping their trash and recyclables in our bins. To all the people saying “just don’t mix trash and recyclables,” I just want to point out that it might not be the condo tenants’ fault; it might be the result of others in the neighborhood. I wish DC could ticket these people who are too lazy to take their own stuff to the curb on the appropriate day.

    • We have the same issue – our building backs to an alley which backs to a number of single family homes on the other side. One neighbor in particular dumps their mixed bags in our dumpster. We also have a group house next door which routinely dumps big bags of beer cans in our dumpster on weekends. Very frustrating.

  • I think I live in the same building as the OP. It’s definitely frustrating. I’ve reported illegal dumping a few times though 311 because people leave large pieces of furniture (dressers, mattresses, a door most recently) by the dumpster, but as ananymouskst said, maybe the targeting is a result of that.

  • I just don’t get it. If the city was the entity picking up the trash and recycling, then I would understand. But when you have contracted with a private company, what business is it of DPW? If cans are overflowing, then certainly there is a litter problem. That makes sense. But if your trash and recycling are mixed (and not overflowing) that should be between you and your private hauler. Seems like a simple legislative fix….

  • I’m the president of a condo board in a building close to you, we were getting monthly fines and having the same issues. The solution was to get locks for our dumpsters… not only does this prevent random passer-by’s mixing regular trash in with our recycling, but more importantly it prevents the inspector from looking inside. Of course this doesn’t solve the real issue which is that we should be more careful about mixing the trash and recycling but as you know, some things are just out of our control. We use KBR trash management and have been very happy.

    By the way, this also solved another huge issue which was rats, we used to have rats going in and dragging trash out and into the street, I hardly see rats near the building anymore.

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