Hefty fines for mixing recycling, trash have residents upset

More complaints are emerging about the District's recycling program. A business owner, who said she recycles religiously, received a hefty fine from the city.

Businesses have to pay fines of more than $200 for mixing recycling with garbage.

“It is discriminatory against small businesses in D.C.,” said Helene Bloom, owner of the Soho Café. “I think it is a way to collect revenue. I think it is unfair and I think they are just trying to make money by penalizing the small businesses.”

A recycling investigator went through the bins behind a building with several businesses and numerous apartments. Because the investigator found a bag with the name of the Soho Cafe, its owner received a hefty ticket for mixing recyclables with trash.

Bloom, however, said the items weren't hers, and that they're optional to recycle anyway.

Photos from the investigator show plastics, some grimey and a piece of soiled paper. D.C. requirements for recycling say: “plastic food containers and beverage bottles are optional.”

They go on to stipulate, "recyclables should be free of contaminants such as food... soiled paper... cannot be recycled.”

“When the trash truck does finally come and pick up trash they comingle everything anyway. There is no separation of anything,” said Bloom. She plans to contest the fine.

Cell phone video apparently showing D.C. sanitation workers throwing recycling and trash into the same truck sparked angry responses in a neighborhood where residents received numerous tickets for not properly recycling.

Residents and business owners there think the city is unfair in its enforcement of recycling. The owner of a grocery store is going to great lengths to comply and avoid fines. She says she received a warning, but no fine.