Dear PoPville – need help/advice on trash collector that mixes trash/recyclables

“Dear PoPville,

This happens weekly behind my apartment building in Logan Circle. I have notified the landlords of our apartment building. I have called Bowie’s Trash Inc. twice, both times they said that they would take care of it and that it would not happen again, but there has been no change in the past ~6 months.

I read that DC has some of the most lenient laws in the country that allow collectors to mix a certain percentage of recycling with trash due to narrow alleyways. It’s true that our alleyway is narrow, however the other buildings in the same alley have collectors that haul away recycling separate from trash.

What, if any, are the next steps I can take to make this change? Thanks!”

28 Comment

  • You should call the DC Recycling Hotline at (202) 645-8245. I don’t believe that haulers are allowed to mix recyclables due to narrow alleyways, or for any other reason. I can’t find any law or reg that permits the behavior documented in the video.

  • you should read up on the fact that sending big heavy trucks around to pick up recycling, then expensively processing it, and selling it into markets where it is almost worthless, does nothing for the environment and is primarily designed to make you feel better about your consumption habits. then you should get over it and let this company handle the garbage as they see fit.

    • “Expensively processing it” = sorting out the jumble created by people and companies who think they are too busy and important to sort their refuse.

    • My thoughts exactly.

    • Anon – What are these facts that we should be reading? It would seem much easier to just post the information and have the evidence than just trolling and taunting.
      The most recent cost benefit analysis that I’ve read show that recycling costs slightly more than landfilling waste, but slightly less when the long term cost of the landfill is considered. The cost of collection and processing is not the whole cost. If someone can’t make money recycling they are not running their business well.

      • The perceived vs actual benefits of recycling (selling recycled items, helping the environment, etc.) are irrelevant here, right? I mean, isn’t it DC law that buildings have to recycle?

        The issue here is that Bowie’s has a contract and it is not meeting the terms set forth in the contract. Unfortunately for the poster, the aggrieved party is likely the landlord and since he/she doesn’t seem to care, I’m not sure what else can be done. The only thing I can think of is small claims court, either against the landlord or Bowies–in theory, a portion of the rent is going to provide services that Bowie’s is paid to provide but is not, and that landlord is required to provide due to city law.

        I lived in a building that wound up firing Bowie’s because of this very reason. Forget who we went with but they promised they actually recycled (or if they didn’t, they were at least smart enough to wait until after their trucks left the area before mixing trash and recycling together).

        • Regardless of the benefits or lack thereof that accrue from recycling, it is a DC LAW that forces condo associations to pay for private trash hauling and *requires* recycling, which costs even more. There is a credit on property taxes that offsets probably only 1/10 of the private cost for trash hauling that is absorbed by multi-unit homeowners, which is bad enough. But it’s insult to injury that the city does nothing to ensure separated recycling is actually diverted from the waste stream. I know of many instances of the city fining condo associations for residents not separating out recyclables. It’s the perfect definition of double standard that the city won’t take on the haulers who treat separated recyclables as waste and send everything to the landfill.

  • We saw the same thing with the same company (Bowie’s Trash) at our U St apartment in 2008-2010

  • That is particularly frustrating since DPW will fine a building for mixing garbage and recycling. My condo building uses Bowie’s, and we’ve received a number of $200+ fines for having recyclables in the dumpster (which are often dumped by tenants in the group house next door). I’ve never personally seen Bowie’s mixing our items, but would assume they do if they are doing it at other buildings….

  • Don’t expect anything to happen anytime soon if Bowie is your trash company. Their customer service is deplorable. For a while their guys were telling them that they were picking up our trash when they weren’t. Then they told them that the pictures we were sending of the full trash cans were certainly “posed” to make them look bad – like we quickly filled up all of our cans so we could take a picture for the purpose of complaining. So perhaps be grateful that they are actually picking up your trash/recycling at all.

  • My (rather large) building just pretends it has recycling, then puts everything in the trash when the maintenance people take it out back. Not really sure what to do about it, we’ve already complained a number of times.

  • it’s because recycling is a joke that doesn’t make any difference and in fact may end up wasting resources because of the cost to transport, separate and refine it.

    • This may well be true, but it’s still D.C. law that commercial entities aren’t supposed to throw away recyclables. And I bet that the contract that Bowie’s Trash has with the OP’s building for trash and recycling is more $$ than if it were just for trash.

    • I’m glad you anti-environmental folks are a dying breed.

    • it also may cure cancer. similarly, i don’t have links supporting my conjecture either.

  • Generally speaking the waste hauling industry is one of the less transparent industries and getting a real account of where your waste/recycling is going can be tough. I would try to DC Recycling Hotline (202) 645-8245 to report this. Since it’s the law for commercial properties to recycle it should be the law for haulers doing business in DC to provide the service they say they are.

  • I have two recycling and one trash can. Today a recycling and a trash bin were picked up and put in the back of the same dumpster whilst my 2nd recycling container was left full of recyclables.
    There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this. And yes, I was not happy that my rubbish and recycling got mixed together.
    I live in Shaw, not too far from Logan, so maybe it’s the same company.
    BTW, what’s the deal on bins having lids and pick up day? Are they supposed to be on or off?

    • Sounds like you’re served by a private contractor — in that case, it’s whoever the building management hired.

  • Oh, give me a break. Some random commenter on this blog, and all of a sudden you think you’re some kind of expert on recycling? You’re dead wrong, and anyone with any iota of knowledge regarding environmentalism, recycling, or basic elementary researching skills knows that. Pathetic smear.

  • Bowie’s Trash, so Mary Angela Barnett?

  • You can report a commercial property that does not recycle by calling the Recycling Hotline at (202) 645-8245.
    Residential buildings with four or more apartments count as commercial properties.
    Recycling collection:
    Commercial recycling:

  • A rep from the D.C. Department of Public Works said this in the previous thread:
    “You may want to check with our SWEEP Office (Solid Waste Education and Enforcement Program). Give Russell Klein (Recycling Education Program Coordinator) a call at 645-7190 on or after Monday, Aug. 26. I know of no such system [i.e., mixing recyclables and trash], and neither did anyone I talked to just now. The District uses single-stream recycling which separates all recycling materials… into plastic, paper, glass etc… at the Recycling Center, saving the resident from having to separate it themselves. As best I know, there are no instances in DC where recyling and trash should ever be placed in the same truck. In fact, we remain vigilant when it comes to making sure that it *doesn’t* happen. But… I may be wrong. Check in with Russell at the beginning of next week.”

  • My Condo Building like many others have received fines from DPW for having recyclables in the trash dumpster. It seems to me that if DPW has manpower to dumpster dive and fine residents, then they should have staff that can track companies like Bowie and fine them. Individuals in our building were fined $200 for each incident, so I would think that a $2,000 fine would be just about right for Bowie.

  • > “I read that DC has some of the most lenient laws in the country that allow collectors to mix a
    > certain percentage of recycling with trash due to narrow alleyways… what, if any, are the next
    > steps I can take to make this change? Thanks!”

    —- —– —- —– —- —–
    Thank you for all for sharing your concerns.

    Under DC Regulations:

    2021.2 Each owner of a commercial property shall be responsible for the separate removal of recyclable material by a registered recycling hauler…

    2053.1 A recycling hauler shall not simultaneously transport recyclables along with other materials for disposal in the same vehicle at the same time.

    Per our Commercial Recycling Guide:
    EXAMPLE COMPLAINT> I saw an employee / trash company / janitor mixing recyclables and solid waste. What can I do?

    If you see an employee misusing the containers within your office, please let your office manager know. If you see your housekeeping staff or a truck driver mixing your separated recyclables with general waste, please call or write to your property management company.

    You may also report it, anonymously if you choose, to telephone number 311 (also to make a report to the DPW Office of Recycling. Note: please provide address, time of day, name on collection company vehicle, and vehicle license plate, if possible. In this case, add the link to your video.

    If you believe you see a DPW employee mixing waste and recyclables during the course of a collection route, call 311 (also to make a report to the Collections Division.
    Note: please provide address, time of day, and vehicle license plate, if possible.

    Feel free to write with additional questions or refer your readers to the DPW Office of Recycling.
    Tel. 202-645-7190
    Russell Klein, LEED AP®
    Program Coordinator, Community Environmental Education Specialist
    D.C. Department of Public Works – Office of Recycling
    Russell.Klein (at)
    202-645-7191 Main Office.
    202-576-9414 Desk

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