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zerowaste

Zero Waste
Zero Waste

Curbside Composting Pilot Program

About the Curbside Composting Pilot Program

In August 2023, the Department of Public Works' Office of Waste Diversion launched the Curbside Composting Pilot Program to provide curbside food waste collection from single-family households in the District of Columbia. Please find additional information and answers to frequently asked questions below. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does my Food Waste Collection Day change when there's a holiday? 

When a District holiday occurs, your Food Waste Collection Day will “slide” to the next day for the rest of the week. For a list of District holidays that will affect collection, please visit: DPW Slide Guide

How will food waste collection be impacted by winter weather like snow or ice? 

In the case of inclement weather affecting the District, food waste collection may be delayed or canceled for the safety of collection crews. DPW will send email updates should winter weather impact your food waste collection route.

Please ensure you are signed up for email updates at public.govdelivery.com. To ensure that notices about service interruptions are received and do not go to your spam or junk folder, we recommend adding [email protected] and [email protected] as email contacts.

My food waste wasn't collected on my collection day. What should I do? 

If your compost collection container was not emptied by 4:00 p.m. on your Food Waste Collection Day, call 311 or visit 311.dc.gov to file a service request for "Missed Curbside Compost Collection" as soon as possible and we will schedule a new collection to resolve the error. 

My curbside collection container was stolen, is missing, or is broken. What should I do? 

If your compost collection container is stolen, missing, or is broken, call 311 or visit 311.dc.gov to file a service request and we will send a free replacement container. 

I was selected to participate, but have not received my starter kit. What should I do?

We're sorry we haven't gotten you a starter kit yet. If you have not received your starter kit yet, please email [email protected] (SUBJECT: Starter Kit) and we will arrange for a starter kit to be re-delivered as soon as possible. 

When is my Food Waste Collection Day? Is it the same as trash or recycling collection?

Because the Pilot Program is serviced through different routes, your Food Waste Collection Day is not necessarily the same as your trash and recycling collection day.

Visit http://tinyurl.com/DCCompostCollectionDays and use your Bin ID to identify your food waste collection day. Don't have an ID number on your outdoor food waste collection bin? Email us at [email protected] or call (202) 645-8245 and we can look up your collection day and provide your Bin ID for your records.

Where should I put my compost bin for collection?

Your point of collection will be where you typically place your trash and recycling bins for collection (i.e., the front, back, or side of your house). Please avoid placing the compost bin on top of your trash and recycling bins, or in a location where it would be onscured from view (e.g., directly behind a parked car). 

Who is eligible to participate in the Curbside Composting Pilot Program?

Households currently receiving trash and recycling services from the DC Department of Public Works (DPW) were are eligible to participate in the Pilot Program. DPW provides trash and recycling services to residential single-family households residing in buildings with 3 units or fewer. Commercial properties and households living in multi-family residential buildings with 4 or more units are not eligible.

The sign-up period closed in June 2023. A limited amount of houses were selected in each Ward. At this time, we are not accepting new participants. After the completion of the year-long pilot program, we hope to open up sign ups to a broader group of District residents and, eventually, all DPW customers.

Can I still sign-up to join the Pilot Program?

The sign-up period has now closed. All selected households have been notified if they were selected via a confirmation email or phone call from the Department of Public Works’ Office of Waste Diversion ([email protected]). 

Unfortunately, we are not accepting new participants at this time. After the completion of the year-long pilot program, we hope to open up sign ups to a broader group of District residents and, eventually, all DPW customers.

When does collection start?

Food waste collection has begun in all eight wards. Your food waste collection day was included on a postcard that arrived with your starter kit.Because the Pilot Program is serviced through different routes, your Food Waste Collection Day is not necessarily the same as your trash and recycling collection day. If you cannot find the postcard or are unsure what day is your Food Waste Collection Day, email [email protected] or call (202) 645-8245 and we can look up your collection day.

Please set out your curbside collection container at your point of collection (i.e., where you typically place your trash and recycling bins for collection) no earlier than 6:30 p.m. the night before collection and no later than 6:00 a.m. on your collection day. Collection will occur between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. 

If your food waste is not collected by 4:00 p.m. on a collection day, please file a 311 service request for "Missed Curbside Compost Collection" so that we can address the issue most efficiently.

What resources and equipment do participating households receive?

Participating households received a welcome packet in the mail and via email, which details best practices for food waste collection and how food waste will be collected, as well as a starter kit which includes:

  • One (1) 1.9-gallon kitchen compost caddy for indoor food waste collection,
  • One (1) 5-gallon curbside collection container for outdoor food waste collection,
  • 100 compostable bin liners (bags), and 
  • A postcard with information about your weekly collection day.

What materials can I put in my curbside compost collection bin?

Acceptable Materials:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps and trimmings;
  • Cut or dried flowers and houseplants;
  • Coffee grounds, loose tea, and paper coffee filters and tea bags;
  • Meat (cooked or raw) and bones;
  • Fish and other seafood (including crustaceans and shells);
  • Eggs and egg shells;
  • Dairy products (including spoiled dairy);
  • Bread, grains, cereals;
  • Rice and pasta (cooked or uncooked);
  • Egg shells, nut shells, and corn cobs;
  • Nuts, seeds, beans, flour, and spices;
  • Food-soiled napkins and paper towels;
  • Moldy, expired, or prepared food (including those cooked in oil);
  • Fruit pits and seeds; and
  • Uncoated paper products (including newspaper, paper egg shell cartons, and cardboard).

Unacceptable Materials:

  • Yard wastes of any type (i.e., leaves, branches, woody debris) - click here to schedule a separate yard waste pick up;
  • Plastic bags, wraps, or film;
  • Stickers from fruits or vegetables;
  • Fats, oil, and grease (small amounts of oil or fat in prepared foods are acceptable);
  • Diapers;
  • Animal and human waste or body fluids;
  • Biodegradable or compostable food serviceware (i.e., cups, straws, takeout containers, and utensils) and all packaging (biodegradable, compostable, or other);
  • Coated or waxed paper or cardboard boxes (i.e., paper bags, plates, bowls, takeout containers);
  • Non-compostable materials like plastic, metals, foil, glass, or Styrofoam;
  • Inedible kitchen grease, grease from sewer traps, or any liquids;
  • Diseased, or insect-infested houseplants, invasive plants, or contaminated soil

How do I use the bags provided in the starter kit? 

The compostable bags provided in your starter kit are large enough to fit in either the kitchen caddy or the outdoor collection container. You can use them in either container based on your personal preference. 

You are not required to use the bags. If you choose to not use the bags, we recommend lining the container with newspaper or other paper materials for easier clean-up after your container is emptied. 

My bags are breaking when I try to transfer them. What can I do? 

Because the bags are meant to breakdown and be composted, they can be fragile. Bags are more likely to break if there is a high volume of liquid included with your food scraps. To increase the lifespan of the bags, reduce the amount of liquids that are going into your bin. You may also try lining the bottom of your compostable bags with paper towels/napkins or shredded paper to soak up the moisture from food scraps.

Can I get more bags from DPW if I run out? Where can I get replacement bags? 

Your starter kit included 100 compostable bags, budgeting for approximately two (2) bags per week over the year-long pilot. DPW is not providing additional bags at this time. If you need more bags, you can utilize any bag that has the "BPI-certified" logo.

You are not required to use the bags. If you choose to not use the bags, we recommend lining the container with newspaper or other paper materials for easier clean-up after your container is emptied. 

What happens to the food waste collected through the pilot program?

Food waste is collected through the Curbside Composting Pilot Program primarily brought to Prince George’s Country Composting Facility and processed into compost. At the end of the Curbside Composting Pilot Program year, at least five pounds of finished compost will be delivered to each participating household. In advance of compost delivery, all participants will be notified of the distribution process. 

DPW also allows District residents to fill up to five 32-gallon bags (bring your own bags and shovel) of free compost Tuesday – Friday 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and Saturday 7:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the Ft. Totten Transfer Station (4900 John F. McCormack Road NE).

I moved to another single-family home in the District. Can I change my address?

lease email [email protected] or call (202) 645-8245 and we will register your new address. Once your new address is confirmed with DPW staff, you may use your curbside collection container at your new address.

How long is the Curbside Composting Pilot Program?

The Curbside Composting Pilot Program is currently scheduled to run for one year. After the completion of the year-long pilot program, we hope to open up sign ups to a broader group of District residents and, eventually, all DPW customers.

My bin is gross, how to I clean it?

We recommend rinsing plastic containers with soap and water between uses. Your kitchen caddy is dishwasher safe, however, do NOT heat dry.

To better control odor, you can line the bottom of your kitchen caddy or collection bin with shredded newspapers or store food scraps in the freezer or refrigerator until your collection date.

I received an “Oops” tag – what does that mean?

Please make sure that your curbside compost container is free of contaminants like plastic. If these contaminants are spotted in your container, our collections crew will not empty the contents of your container into the collection truck and instead will affix an “Oops” tag to your container to indicate the presence of contaminants. Your food waste will be collected on your next collection day once the contaminants are removed.

“Oops” tags are not meant to punish you, rather, they are an educational tool to help you divert your food scraps better. Mistakes happen, especially with a new program, but we encourage you to take corrective action and learn from the feedback on the “Oops” tag.

What is the purpose of the Curbside Composting Pilot Program?

The Curbside Composting Pilot Program has the following objectives:

  • Divert food waste from landfill and incineration
  • Provide accessible composting services to residents
  • Determine the level of engagement or “set-out” rate of participating households
  • Determine the feasibility of expanding curbside food waste collection to all DPW-serviced households
  • Distribute finished compost to all participating households to use as a nutrient rich soil amendment
  • Evaluate the food waste processing capacity in the region

Will this program attract more rodents?

Rodents are attracted to the smell of food and easy access to it. Currently, households are placing food scraps into their trash containers, which do not securely close. Participating households can actually reduce rodent activity near their homes by moving food scraps out of their trash containers and, instead, placing them in the provided curbside compost collection containers. This will reduce odors when closed securely with the lid screwed on properly. The containers have also been tested for odor and rodent mitigation. Throughout the pilot year, DPW will be working closely with DC Health to identify any areas of improvement for rodent abatement.

 

For any questions related to the Curbside Composting Pilot Program, please email [email protected].