>Last week (8/29/2008), I saw this letter to the editor in the Washington Post:
A few nights ago, as I was waiting for a train at the Farragut West Metro station, I noticed a Metro employee emptying the trash cans. When he got to the newspaper “recycle” bin, he poured its contents into his rolling trash can along with all the trash he had already collected. Surprised, I watched him approach the last trash can and dump that trash on top of the newspapers.
So much for recycling. The upside: Apparently you can now use Metro’s recycling bins for trash, too!
I followed up with WMATA Media Relations to clarify recycling policy for
the newspaper recycling bins in Metrorail stations. The response was
that WMATA janitors normally bring only one container around when
collecting garbage and recycling, but that the newspapers are separated
out and recycled “in the back”.
I was surprised at how little WMATA seemed to want to clarify their
policy. WMATA does not always enjoy the public opinion that it is well
managed. When the public writes letters to the editor such as this one,
the implication is that WMATA is not performing to the public’s
expectations. The casual Post reader might think, “WMATA
wants me to recycle, but they don’t follow up, so why should I bother?”
It seems that they are doing the right thing (recycling newspapers as
intended by the customers), but they allowed the public perception to
continue that they in fact do not care whether or not papers are
recycled. It may seem like a minor issue, but when it comes time to ask
for more funding, either through dedicated taxes or higher fares, the
little tidbit that’s filed in the public’s mind is that WMATA isn’t
managed well. For this example, I think that’s an unfair
characterization. WMATA is doing the right thing, but the public
doesn’t know it.
The best solution would be for WMATA to make it more clear to the
observer that recycling is going on, either by having the janitors use a
separate can for recycling, or for the janitors to pull a separate trip
for recycling only, so that the public does not see everything going
into the same garbage can. Second best would be for WMATA to respond in
the Washington Post online comments section officially to clearly state
their policy. Third best would be for some blogger to follow up and
write a post about almost nothing.
UPDATE: WMATA’s Blue-Orange Line Team customer service provided me with this additional information that was provided to Mr. Olson (the author of the Post letter):
Please allow me to explain what you observed at our Farragut West Station when a custodian was emptying the trash. Our employees have one large barrel, which contain two plastic trash bags. One of the trash bags is “blue.” Its contents are recycle material; while, the second bag is “white,” and its contents is regular trash.
Once the custodian enters the back room, he/she will take the “blue” bags and place them in our recycle receptacle, and place the “white” bag in the receptacle for regular trash.
When our dumpsters are emptied and removed from our premise, one is for the recycled material and the other is for regular trash. The two groups are not mixed. We have also taken the liberty to re-address our trash and recycle procedures to our staff. I apologize for any confusion regarding Metro’s trash pick-up policy. Please be assured that Metro exercise recycling. You can place your newspapers in our receptacles and they will be deposited appropriately.