D.C. to enforce recycling laws

District officials will start enforcing new recycling laws, which require all D.C. residents, apartment buildings and companies to recycle their trash, or else face hefty fines.

The Department of Public Works now requires all D.C. businesses – including universities like GW – to recycle all plastic and cardboard products.

DPW Recycling Program Officer William Easley said the biggest changes to the recycling law regard amendments to the fine structure.

“Where the fines used to be based on square footage, now the price for violations is the same regardless of the size of the building,” Easley said.

If an inspector finds garbage mixed with recycling, the first offense could cost the violator as much as $200.

If further violations occur within the next 60 days, second- and third-tier charges of $600 and $1,500, respectively, will apply.

The law also states that signs must be clearly posted requiring recycling at the building’s entrance, and different receptacles for each distinct recyclable good need to be labeled properly.

Easley said the DPW ceded, however, that organizations like GW cannot always control whether or not students separate their trash from their recyclables. Because of this, Easley said minor violations may be overlooked.

If only a small number of students are not separating their recycling from their trash, for example, the entire building or school will not be punished. But if large violations occur frequently, the fine will more likely be enforced, Easley said.

For places like residence halls, this may entail posting more signs or implementing better education programs.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said GW does not anticipate running into issues implementing the changes to the law, and will continue to post signs.

Sherrard would not say whether the University would incur the fines or levy them onto students responsible for violating the recycling laws.

“The University hasn’t received fines in several years, and we believe with continued GW community support that we’ll continue this track record,” Sherrard said.

Easley said the DPW worked on recycling programs with Howard University this past summer, focusing on teaching incoming freshmen how to recycle properly.

“They actually have a group of students who work with their facilities to tell students what requirements the school has,” Easley said. “The freshmen will be there for four years to replace the graduating seniors, so it is really important that they know the rules.”

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