Beefed Up Recycling Ordinance No Good If Not Enforced

The Department of Environmental Services should be commended for strengthening the Arlington Recycling Ordinance by adding a new Section 10-32 requiring owners of apartment dwellings and commercial establishments to co-locate recycling bins wherever trash receptacles are located on the property.

This requirement is long overdue, as evidenced by the fact that my own landlord removed recycling bins from my property years ago, providing tenants with no way to dispose of their recyclables on the property. Some tenants have resorted to the recycling bins of the property down the street, while most recycle nothing at all.

I also applaud the requirement that landlords provide tenants with instructions on how to recycle within 14 days of moving in. But this doesn’t go far enough. In the face of widespread indifference to the need for recycling–especially among the tenant population–the County must actively promote it. One option is to advertise the need to recycle in Arlington Metro stations, just as Metro has developed an ad campaign to discourage food consumption throughout the Metro system. Another option is to advertise in local print media.

Yet even the most aggressive promotional campaign will not redress an inadequate enforcement policy. It is my understanding that Arlington has only two recycling inspectors, whose beat covers over 5,000 thousand commercial establishments across the county. This is woefully inadequate now and will become even more so when the new stricter recycling code kicks in.

A recent email to DES solid waste management requesting statistics on Arlington’s commercial recycling rate went unanswered. But in 2010 the recycling rate for apartment buildings was only 10 percent. That number will likely not improve without an adequate enforcement policy.

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