81°Partly Cloudy

Urban Etiquette: Trashy People

by Borderstan.com November 8, 2011 at 8:00 am 1,011 11 Comments

"Borderstan""15th Street NW""Trash Can"

A big trash no-no: Public trash cans on the street are not for your household trash. In fact, it’s illegal. (Matty Rhoades)

From Mike Kohn. Have an urban etiquette topic to address? Send Mike an email at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @mike_kohn.

You know what stinks? Trash. Even in my own apartment, I found myself needing to quickly get a bag of trash out of my apartment since it had somehow managed to smell up the place overnight. One thing can make everything around reek of garbage — and nobody likes that.

Now, I’m not going to get on my soapbox and tell you why saving the planet should be at the top of your agenda. Yes, I support the environment and work by day for a company that emphasizes the importance of sustainability, and I love that. But I don’t hug trees and this column isn’t a desperate plea for you to take action.

Dear Newly Arrived Downtown Resident: Public trash cans on the street are NOT for your household trash. Not at all. It’s illegal. Sometimes the city trash collectors or inspectors will take your household trash, trace you, contact you and FINE you. If problems persist with a specific can, the city might remove the can.

Instead, let’s talk about how your trash is affecting my life. Literally.

  • Put the trash in the trash can. I swear, it could not be a simpler instruction. And yet, I see trash on the street and blowing in the wind.
  • Along the same lines, tie up your trash bags. This is really for anyone who leaves their trash in a container outside. Trash smells bad. Like I already mentioned, we all know it, so keep it locked up as best you can.
  • Sometimes, I will admit that it’s hard to put your casual trash in trash cans because they’re full. And with that in mind, don’t place your household trash in public bins. You have a trash can. Use it. For many of us in townhouses, this requires us to go to the dark and scary alley when it’s way easier to dump your stuff in the public bin outside your house. But doing that prevents everyone else from putting trash in the bin. And when people on the street are able to use the bins… well, that makes everyone happier, doesn’t it?
  • Even if it’s kind of a pain, recycle — even if it’s just a little bit. OK, I had to get an environmental plug in there somewhere, right? Maybe it’s too much of a pain to do everything, but if you recycle just that one plastic bottle or that one glass container, you’ll be doing some good. Good for you!

Let’s be honest. Overall, Borderstan is a pretty clean neighborhood. We don’t have a major trash problem. But as we keep growing, this is a good way to make sure it stays clean and doesn’t get, well, trashy. Ever noticed any problems? Have you seen delinquents with their garbage?

As always, if you have any crazy urban challenges, please send them my way at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @mike_kohn so we can right your etiquette wrong!

  • cathy

    is this an appropriate venue to comment on the recent purge of folks’ ikea furniture onto the sidewalks of borderstan? c’mon folks, if it doesn’t disappear with a “free!” sign in one day, you’ll have to deal with your bulk trash. before it gets tagged with graffiti. three times. not even gangs want your billy bookcase.

  • Charles

    And on trash pickup days, I do NOT want to come home to find that during the day somebody has deposited their fast food waste / dog turds / other weird funky shit in my trash can that I put out the night before. C’mon people – are you too lazy to walk it down to the public trash can on the corner?

  • JL

    Also do NOT put mattresses or other large items out back. Your Google works, use it to look up proper scheduling for city pick up of large items. I don’t care if it’s moving day–make arrangements, otherwise that big mattress is going to sit there through a week of rain before somebody else does the work you were supposed to do. You KNOW that thing’s a hassle, so only a cretin would think hey it’s somebody else’s hassle now, not my responsibility. In NYC, this was easily discouraged by the fact that passers-by could be counted on to light the mutha up with some lighter fluid and a match.

  • Amen, Mike!

  • KPat

    So true! Same goes for all of DC!


    we hate trash too. sometimes it even makes its way inside the bar. we quickly throw it out. we have thought about putting that trash in a dumpster but we may get in trouble. LOL
    aside from that…. i agree… you get 1 day on your “free” sign. After that we throw it in your yard. well, not really, but we always wanted to anyway.

  • It’s a shame, I’ve called to report household trash in the public space receptacles, and I haven’t gotten any action from DPW. Likely, that’s because the SWEEP folks who enforce this stuff have recently been laid off en masse. A true shame…

  • Mandy

    At what point does a business bear responsibilty for contributing to large amounts of trash to the community.

    Ever seen all the customer trash deposited all over the sidewalk and on top of the light boxes on Rhode Island Ave. (at 14th Street) coming from 7-11 customers. Sorry 7-11, you can’t get out of this, all the trash packaging says “7-11” all over it.

    Seems the owner could sell that diamond rock she wears on her finger every day and contribute to the cleanliness of the neighborhood. Or at least the street her business parks on.


Subscribe to our mailing list