Public Recycling Program

Thanks to a DowntownDC BID-PepsiCo partnership 363 new recycling bins began appearing on Downtown streets in March of 2011. DC is the nation’s first city to partner with PepsiCo’s nationwide Dream Machine recycling initiative a program that places kiosks and bins in high traffic public spaces in an effort to increase the US beverage container recycling rate from 34% to 50% by 2018.

The BID’s Safety/Hospitality and Maintenance employees (SAMs) are responsible for maintaining the 363 recycling bins provided as part of PepsiCo’s nationwide Dream Machine recycling initiative. The SAMs serve as on-the-street liaisons to educate people about public recycling and the Dream Machine program. For all the bottles and cans recycled through the Dream Machine program, PepsiCo will make a contribution to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), a national program offering free training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans with disabilities.

The History of Downtown Public Recycling

In July 2008, the Downtown BID, the DC Department of Public Works (DPW) and the American Beverage Association (ABA) launched a comprehensive public space recycling pilot, placing 25-lidded recycling cans in high pedestrian areas next to existing trash receptacles throughout the Downtown BID area. The pilot program is part of the DowntownDC BID ecoDistrict initiative and seeks to divert glass and plastic bottles, aluminum cans and clean paper products from collected waste to help conserve natural resources by making it easy for workers, residents and visitors to do the right thing.

Phase I of the program was highly successful—with nearly 50 tons of recyclables collected—and demonstrates that people, when offered the opportunity, will recycle if the process can be performed with minimum inconvenience.

To begin the process, the Downtown BID analyzed several national programs in New York City, Pittsburgh and Baltimore and trash can contents throughout Downtown, finding that recyclables ranged from as little as 15% in some locations to as much as 90% in others – newspaper or plastic bottles dominated the recyclable pool, depending on the location. That data helped the Downtown BID determine location (subway entrances, tourist attractions, public parks and food courts) where the pilot could achieve the highest recycling rates.

Under the partnership arrangement, DPW purchased and installed 25 recycling cans. It continues to dispose of the recycled materials that the Downtown BID’s SAM maintenance team collects and delivers to a central location. ABA coordinates marketing and public educational materials.

The recycling program expanded to 38 new recycling receptacles in 2010, with funds from the $5.5 million in federal stimulus money to implement Downtown’s comprehensive streetscape and streetlight project. The additional and highly visible trash cans were placed in strategic locations around Downtown. The BID also will distributed recycling educational materials to buildings and businesses in the area.

The Downtown BID is committed to developing partnerships and programs that support the city’s commitment to sustainability and help property owners, businesses, residents and visitors become more effective environmental stewards of the Downtown and the planet.