The native urban wildlife, rats and cockroaches, have thus far been the greatest beneficiaries of Washington, D.C.,’s poorly planned and implemented attempt at recycling. The recent City Paper article (“Do As We Say, Not As We Do,” 10/30) discussed some of the program’s deficiencies but failed to document the recycling fiasco that greeted D.C. residents from the very first day that the ubiquitous brown bins and instructions were distributed. The city and the waste management company it contracted have proved to be thoroughly incapable of handling all aspects of this ambitious program.

The city publicized the Oct. 19th starting date and also sent out pamphlets informing residents about the program and their collection day. My neighbors and I followed the instructions and dutifully set out our recycling for pickup on Friday, Oct. 23. When I came home to find the recycling untouched, I phoned the Department of Public Works. When I finally reached the automated recycling message, I was informed that neighborhoods that received trash pickup twice a week would have recycling picked up on the second trash day. This information clearly conflicted with the pamphlet I had originally received, since the second trash pickup in my area occurs on Thursday mornings.

The bloated local bureaucracy and inefficient phone system further stymied my attempts to contact officials in DPW to inform them of the serious sanitation problem that was beginning to develop as a result of the unattended recycling (which ultimately sat out for more than a week). If the line wasn’t busy and I wasn’t stuck in the automated phone service maze, I would often reach an official’s voice mailbox, which was inevitably full, and which would send me back where I started. I finally did reach some sympathetic voices in the department, but they could offer little help besides contacting the contracted waste management company.

The District of Columbia should be ashamed of this poor showing. The city officials I managed to contact informed me that mine was not an isolated case and that the waste management company was “a little behind” in its recycling pickup. I challenge Mayor Barry and the incoming mayor to re-evaluate this program and the contractor the city has hired, to streamline the frustrating phone bureaucracy, and to apologize to the many residents of Washington, who, like myself, will encounter an uncollected, festering mound of bottles and newspapers upon their return home this evening.

Adams Morgan

via the Internet

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