The Catholic University of America

Summary of District of Columbia Laws

Environmental Laws

Recycling/Mandatory Source Separation Law

The DC code on recycling is known as the "Mandatory Source Separation Program" and is currently codified at DC Code § 8-1007. (Formerly DC Code § 6-3407)

Current Requirements Under the Law for Commercial Property

Source Separation

All owners and occupants[1] of commercial property are at a minimum required to separate from the regular trash the following:

  • newspaper
  • clean and rinsed metal food and beverage cans and
  • glass food and beverage containers

In addition, all owners and occupants of an office building[2] must separate office paper[3] from the regular trash.

Recyclable material must be collected at least twice per month unless previously approved in writing by the Director of Public Works, and a sufficient number of containers shall be provided to store recyclables which may accumulate on the premises during the interval between collections.[4] Per a conversation with Bill Easley, the Program Monitor and Acting Coordinator of the DC Office of Recycling, (202-645-8245) cans may be commingled with the glass and any recyclable plastics. Note there is no mandate for the recycling of plastics. Office paper and newspaper must be kept separate from the trash and from the other recyclables. Per Mr. Easley, the newspaper and the office paper may be commingled with each other, but there may be an economic incentive to keep the two types of paper separate, as white paper will bring a higher price in the market for recycled paper.

The Mayor has the authority to mandate the source separation and recycling of any other component of the solid waste stream. Waivers can be sought on the basis of health, safety or undue hardship.

Removal of Recyclables/ Recycling Plan

Each owner or occupant of a commercial property responsible for its own solid waste removal shall also be responsible for the separate removal of recyclable material, unless otherwise provided for in their lease agreement.

In addition, each owner or occupant of a commercial property responsible for the separate removal of recyclable materials must submit to the DC Department of Public Works for approval a recycling plan that includes, at a minimum, the following:

  • A binding contract with a registered recycling hauler, or a written self-implementing plan for the removal of recyclables
  • The commodities to be recycled;
  • The frequency of the collection of the recyclable commodities;
  • The name and phone number of the property's designated recycling coordinator;
  • The square footage of the property;
  • The number of units within the building, if the property is an apartment building, condominium, or cooperative; and
  • The number of full-time and part-time employees employed at the property.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) shall notify the owner/occupant of approval or non-approval. Upon notification of approval, the owner or occupant of the commercial property is responsible to comply with the provisions and to show on demand the recycling plan. In addition, an updated recycling plan must be submitted to DPW every two years, calculated from the date the current plan was approved. Interim changes must be reported within 14 calendar days from the date the change is implemented. For example, if a contract is entered into with a different recycling company for collection, this information should be sent or faxed to DPW within two weeks.

Fines for Non-Compliance

A range of fines are provided for non-compliance. Refusing to provide access to an authorized DPW inspector results in a fine of $500. Other fines imposed range from $25-$1000, based on square footage of the property. The violations range from failure to have a recycling plan, to failure to separate the recyclables from other solid waste, to failure to have a sufficient number of containers for separated recyclables.

Tickets are written to owner/occupant. Per a conversation with Mr. Easley (August of 2001) DC is not currently enforcing the recycling law, but is gearing up to enforce the law. Three inspectors for commercial property will be hired in the next 60 days, and after they are trained, the District will start out with a period of education on the law, followed by enforcement. The education period, per Mr. Easley's best estimate, will probably last for six months to one year. During that time warnings will be issued rather than tickets.


[1] An "occupant" of the property is any person who has a leasehold right, ownership interest, management responsibility, or direct or indirect control over the maintenance of affairs of any space within.

[2] DC Stat. § 8-1003 (10) "Office building" means any commercial property where the primary functions are the transaction of administrative, business,
civic, or professional services including any
library, museum, university, or other facility where handling goods, wares, or
merchandise, in limited quantities, is accessory to the primary occupancy or use.

[[3] Paper is defined in DC Stat. § 8-1003 (11) as follows: "Paper"means all newspaper, high-grade office paper, fine paper, bond
paper, offset paper, xerographic paper, memo paper, duplicator paper, continuous form paper, envelopes, printed material, or
related cellulosic material containing not more than 10% by weight or volume of non-cellulose material such as laminates,
binders, coatings or saturants.

[4] Recyclable material must be stored in compliance with the BOCA National Fire Prevention Code/1990 and the DC Fire Prevention Code Supplement of 1992.

page added Oct. 1, 2001
updated 2/19/08 AAA
links updated 6/6/08 rab
Page updated August 4th, 2010, FJL.



Last Revised 04-August-10 12:47 PM.