D.C. Residents, Recycle Your Cat Litter Or Face Garbage Snooping, Fines

The Washington, D.C. Department of Public Works is apparently so dedicated to enforcing recycling laws that they’re willing to dig through trash to find evidence to issue fines. A resident says she’s been stuck with $2,000 worth of fines, some of which come from a government employee who admits to discovering her violations by snooping in her garbage.

My Fox DC reports the woman is fighting her citations, and a member of the D.C. council has asked for a meeting with the department to talk about the case.

In a statement, the department says it does not enforce residential recycling, but apartment buildings with four or more units are fair game. The statement says the department emphasizes education but resorts to fines when that doesn’t work. In an email to the news station, the department says other evidence than that which was dug up in the trash showed that the woman’s fine was justified.

DC Resident Fined Thousands For Not Recycling Cat Litter [My Fox DC via Fark]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    You can recycle cat-litter?

    Since when?! I can’t even get my GARBAGE MAN to take it!

    • ceril75 says:

      She makes “homemade” cat litter IE newspaper

      Dupont Circle resident Patricia White says she has been fined eight times for throwing homemade cat litter in her trash. The fines total $2,000. White says she shreds old newspaper and junk mail to use as cat litter. She believes she is helping the environment by reusing the paper and avoiding cat litter you will find in stores.

      • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

        I don’t think I could get the recycling guys to take that, even still…

        • sponica says:

          I’m pretty sure it’s not recyclable once it’s contaminated….I mean, you can’t recycle pizza boxes that have cheese and sauce stuck to them. At least not where I live

          • borgia says:

            Grease and fats ruin the recycling process. So, it really is the type of contamination that matters.

            • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

              Given that the show “Hoarders” won’t take anything for donation or sale that’s got any sort of bio matter on it, I don’t think it should be recycled either.

    • chiieddy says:

      We recycle our litter but we have a CatGenie. Highly recommend [Although we keep ours in the basement so we don’t get the occasional smell of baked poop throughout the house as some people do when the unit misses a little something special during the cleaning process]

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        i love my sister’s cat genie but neither my bathroom nor laundry room has the right space to put it in and still have it reach the drain

        • chiieddy says:

          It can go to the toilet too. When it expels the waste into the bowl, the added water will flush the toilet for you.

  2. Costner says:

    If you have a government that is able to pay employees to rifle through the trash of citizens, it is a safe bet that government is simply too big. Rather than balancing their budget via fines, maybe they should consider slashing unessential government employees that serve no legitimate benefit.

    • Kavatar says:

      Like who?

      • axhandler1 says:

        Let’s start with Congress.

      • Costner says:

        Maybe the people who spend their days digging through trash in the search of shredded paper for starters. It is D.C… they have been known to pay people to work who never bothered to show up – it is safe to say they have a little bit of bloat.

      • A.Mercer says:

        I think Costner is saying that the employees who are being paid to dig thru trash to find stuff like this should probably not be on the payroll in the first place. Eliminating positions like this would help out the city stay within its budget and be more fiscally responsible.

    • borgia says:

      I don’t think you realize the total cost of a dump. Getting citizens to reduce trash output can significantly save money. In Urban areas it can be enough of a savings to make it worth while to pay for the employees and this is ignoring the whole 2 sided purpose of the fines. Stop an action and pay for enforcement

      • Costner says:

        There are a lot more cost effective and less obtrusive ways to educate people about recycling. Digging through trash is just the wrong way to do it, because what is to prevent me from bagging up all of my tin cans and old newsprint and then adding it to your garbage bag so you get slapped with a fine?

        Don’t think this could happen? I have a friend who had a similar situation in college. He was called to a meeting with his RA and the Residence Hall Director and slapped with a fine for drinking in his dorm room along with mandatory alcohol classes. He said he did nothing of the sort, but they found beer cans in a trash bag with mail that had his name on it. He told me blatantly that he didn’t do it (and he wouldn’t lie to me) and he protested the fine by claiming someone must have added beer cans to his trash after it left his room – but they wouldn’t buy his story.

        Granted that is an extreme example but it shows how one person can get blamed for the actions of another, and since the appeals process requires a person to essentially prove they aren’t guilty (the burden of proof is reversed) it is nearly impossible to win on appeal. I just don’t feel that digging through other people’s trash is an effective way of reducing landfill utilization… especially when businesses are exempt from recycling rules. One small office can produce more paper in a single week and a typical home would produce in a year, yet they aren’t required to recycle in most areas while homeowners are. That is insane!

        In my area, recycling is mandatory and I don’t mind doing it beause I want to do my part, but my recycling can is typically only picked up every other week and is typically only about half full when emptied (and I recycle EVERYTHING possible). On the flip side, I know a bar in my area that fills three to five dumpsters a week the vast, vast majority of which consists of glass beer bottles and plastic cups (both of which could be recycled). Yet they are not required to recycle even though their impact is probably more in a single week than my impact would be for an entire year.

        Does this really make sense? If we are honestly concerned about landfills and the environment, businesses should be required to recycle long before individual homeowners because they are responsible for much more waste.

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        It’s called as long as it’s not in my backyard I don’t care about what, where or how much.

      • wasabirobot says:

        Not to mention that there are “costs” of a dump that go beyond immediately quantifiable dollars and cents.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Actually they’re not going through enough trash. I see private residents throw away recyclables, toxins, electronics and commerical trash in their residential trash all the time.

      This is where this law is unfair. It seems like it’s basically singling out renters which probably have less trash than a private resident.

      And since dumps charge by weight AND availability what goes in the trash matters. I know people in communities that have to pay a 15$ disposal fee for an old portable tv and yet some communties take tv’s no questions asked or without a disposal fee . But trash must wind up some where. And it may be in your backyard one day.

    • PurplePenquin says:

      “If you have a government that is able to pay employees to rifle through the trash of citizens,”

      Cops do this all the time, looking for seeds and stems from Illegal Plants.

      • Costner says:

        I know…. you will have two officers making $35 an hour each plus benefits spend two hours digging in trash to end up charging someone with a crime that carries a $200 fine. By the time you subtract salaries, court costs, and the inevitable hassles from when the charges are appealed via claims it wasn’t their trash or had been manipulated… what is the end result?

        Don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect law enforcement to turn a profit or break even, but there comes a point where they are just wasting taxpayer dollars and trying to justify their own existance.

  3. eccsame says:

    So, basically, it’s a tax on the poor since it only applies to apartment buildings with four or more units and not single unit, old money houses in Georgetown.

  4. Marlin says:

    Seems there is more than just the cat liter. When all the facts were put forward even a Judge agreed she was wrong.

    The ticket Ms. White is questioning was upheld November 21, 2011 by an Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Administrative Hearings, based on evidence of items other than the shredded newspaper that showed comingled trash and recyclables.”

    • Darury says:

      Well clearly, that makes it OK that the government searches your trash for possible violations of anything the see fit.

      • Marlin says:

        You’re right, how dare they uphold the law and do their job.


        • Darury says:

          And not to invoke Godwin’s law.. but you know that whole “just doing my job” thing has been somewhat out of vogue since Nuremberg.

          • Marlin says:

            Go to work today and tell them you are not doing your job because you think its to Nazi like.

            Tell me how that works for you. Because people, even in DC Gov, get fired for not doing their job.

      • Powerlurker says:

        It’s legal for anyone to search your trash. The law considers it to be abandoned property.

    • sqeelar says:

      This Administrative Law Judge wasn’t suing his dry cleaner for a (where’s that picture of Dr. Evil) … a Million Dollars?

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        Why not make it really ludicrous and ask for, I don’t know, $65 MILLION DOLLARS?

  5. Don't Bother says:

    Hide yo batteries, hide yo bottles, and hide yo cans, cuz they fining everybody out here.

  6. Thyme for an edit button says:

    In a statement, the department says it does not enforce residential recycling, but apartment buildings with four or more units are fair game.

    Are apartments not residences? I don’t get it.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      No apartments are businesses who provide housing. they are not technically residences.

      • eccsame says:

        Except they aren’t fining the building owners. They’re fining the residents/renters

        • Thyme for an edit button says:

          Well, good luck to them proving it was my trash and not the trash from one of the 14 other units in my building or just tossed in by some random passer-by.

          I try to separate recyclables, but I am sure I accidentally trash recyclables sometimes, and and if the recycle bin is full, it’s dark, it’s raining, it’s snowing… well then, I may intentionally put some recyclables in the trash.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      This law basically discriminates against renters with less space probably producing less trash. But since it’s centralized or under the banner of a business it is assumed they produce more.

      This policy basically makes political friends with the private residents/more permanent voters. Can’t say the taxpayers because landlords/renters or building owners pay taxes as well. So the justification for exempting private residents is …

  7. JohnDeere says:

    the trash man has no businuess going through my trash. i know its fair game when its on the curb, but ethically its a bad idea, easy to steal an identity from someones trash. this person should be fired. or atleast investigated for possible i.d. theft.

    • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:


      If it’s on the curb it is fair game, no ethical issues about it. You didn’t want it out there, shouldn’t have thrown it away. Shred your documents. Or what I do is save everything I’m going to shred, then burn it when I go to my parents cottage.

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        I think that’s how this person got caught. She didn’t shred some identifying documents unless there was a label on a dumpster or can.

      • JohnDeere says:

        i pay for my trash pickup. if i saw them snooping through it i would just fire them. because it is an ethics deal to me. i burn all my documents, but hes still getting fired for going through my trash.

  8. newmie says:

    Cat litter is clay. That means it is already dirt. How does one recycle what is already dirt??

    Are these people all nuts??

    • Citizen says:

      Rd th rtcl. r r y t dmb t rd.

      • eccsame says:

        No need to call people dumb. The headline is kind of misleading. It should say “Woman who makes her own cat litter at home fined for not recycling it”.

        • Slaughterhouse5 says:

          If a person can’t RTFA, he or she should STFU.

        • u1itn0w2day says:

          But she repurposed or recycled her paper which is done with plastics & metal as well-isn’t that what recycling is about; repurposing or reusing the samething rather than add new into the picture.

      • Bagels says:

        It’s “too”, not “to”

      • Costner says:

        Did you intentionally use the wrong version of “too” and use a period rather than a question mark on purpose?

        If not… I find your statement rather ironic. If so, I recommend the /s tag in the future.

    • pop top says:

      Clay isn’t dirt, it’s clay. And things that are recycled don’t get turned into dirt.

  9. Gravitational Eddy says:

    Reminder: this was not your ordinary -clay- type kitty litter. This is shredded newsprint and paper from the trash, sort of like the stuff you line the bottom of the bird cage with. I’m pretty sure they never intended this stuff to be “recycled ” into those recycling containers. At least the ones used for paper only trash.
    This paper is soaked with urine and feces, and it’s not the stuff the recyclers want to deal with. (I’m sure they do not actually touch the recylcled paper as it comes in, I mean, who would want to?)
    So what do you do with it? Speak up there Mr city employee…tell us how you wish us to dispose of this hazardous waste.
    I’m pretty sure you don’t want it mixed into the “clean” paper trash, right?
    I can’t flush it, there isn’t a HAZMAT container there, and if I keep it at the house until I’ve got enough to pack down to the city recycler’s “other waste materials” container, (because they don’t put one of those here where I am) and it’s going to make my home smell like cat pee…..

    So what now Mr city employee? Huh? Remind me, what do I pay you for, anyway?

    • Marlin says:


      “The ticket Ms. White is questioning was upheld November 21, 2011 by an Administrative Law Judge with the Office of Administrative Hearings, based on evidence of items other than the shredded newspaper that showed comingled trash and recyclables.”

      This is more than just the newspaper. They are just using to newspaper to make her look more innocent.

  10. MyLiLPony says:

    So is this lady mad that someone snooped through her garbage or mad that she got caught for not doing what she was supposed to do?

    If you read the article she was fined multiple times for doing this and continued to do so until the fines reached upwards of $2,000. Maybe she thought she was Above the Law like Steven Seagal?

    • zibby says:

      You’ll occasionally see the bizarre it’s-your-fault-for-catching-me defense. It seems to fly in some circles.

  11. dobgold says:

    Yuck! Feline version of used toilet paper. I’d be really pissed if I were dealing with this in a recycling center… it belongs in the landfill.

  12. VicMatson says:

    I think we have a nut job here, why use the recycle bin for trash? What can be recycled with cat stuff?

    • Gravitational Eddy says:

      Got any paint cans with dried up, or thickened up unused paint in them? Here, the city recylcles those cans at least once a year, and they ask that you fill up the partially empty can with kitty litter first, then reseal it and put a note on the top with the words “KITTY LITTER ADDED”. At least I’m not using fresh clean -unused- kitty litter… ahahahaha

  13. shepd says:

    BTW: All the garbage the USA will create at the current rate for the next 100 years will fit in a regular sized city. There’s plenty of absolutely unused land with nobody around it for miles it could go to.

    But that’s okay, spend your money as you like. I mean, at least the jobs recycling creates are effing great jobs.

    • sufreak says:

      Well, then, by all means, lets just throw everything into one big pile. Won’t be an issue for us once we die. And all that land, who needs it? Just wasting space, making oxygen, things like that.

      • George4478 says:

        Ooooooooor, we could just forgo the hysterics of the “OMG!!!! We are covering the world with trash!” crowd and deal with the facts of the issue.

        But, since you seem to be a part of the aforementioned group, I don’t think you’d approve.

        • sufreak says:

          Rather than accuse me of hysterics, which they’re not, have a valuable discussion. Unless you truly think that the best idea is to just dump everything into a big hole.

          I am not an environmentalist by any nature, but I do my best to recycle. I don’t think its horrible to try to prevent landfills with, honestly, no extra effort on the part of the consumer. Maybe holding a bottle until you arrive at a destination which can recycle it. But more and more, street trash bins are being designed with a recycling slot/opening.

          I enjoy my veal, beef, pork, chicken, and other animal meats. But frankly, if we cover all their living space with trash, aside from the toxins, there will be fewer animals to eat/hunt, whatever.

          • shepd says:

            Have you seen the work performed at a recycling centre?

            It is exactly as pictured on that video. I had an employee that worked at a recycling centre doing that job once and it was the worst job of his life, and the most dangerous. The employers are incredibly cheap, too. Gloves were provided once a week and lasted a few hours. After that you’re sorting sharps with your bare hands.

            He lasted a couple of weeks in that job and I have no doubt that he was a good worker, so I’m certain he quit due to that and not because they wanted him gone. He worked really damn hard at his job at my store.

      • shepd says:

        There are parts of the land so inhospitable it is incredibly unlikely that anyone will want to use them for anything productive. And, since areas like that are so incredibly vast (Did you know that most of Canada is completely uninhabited, even by animals (except, perhaps, for about 3 species), for example?) that there will still be plenty of land for our children to use.

        Also, you can still build on trash. Did you know without trash large amounts of NYC simply would not exist?

        Trash provides archeological study for future generations. And it provides a valuable resource mine in nice enclosed space should we actually run short of something important. Yeah, it will be hard work to pick it out, but if you desperately need it, it will be worth the expense.

        Lastly, if you’re thinking of the “it still stinks” problem, let’s look at recycling. You ever try to build a building on top of a recycling plant? You can’t. That land is truly not usable for anything else until you get rid of recycling. Oh, and consider the environmental cost. In my experience, heavy industry (and I’d call recycling heavy industry) tends to poison the land, so even if you remove the building, expect ridiculous costs to fix the problems left over.

    • bsh0544 says:

      I’ve heard such things before, but never has a reliable source been cited. I don’t generally take TV shows at their word.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      So this is what a future metropolitan skyline will look like? Something like 25 square miles of this.

  14. The_IT_Crone says:

    Sounds like she’s being fined for items OTHER THAN the kitty litter, but she’s trying to get the media on her side.

  15. Cat says:

    Man, don’t be tellin’ me I have to recycle that shit.

    • CubeRat says:

      Ya, it’s what I hate most about having kitties. Really wish they prefered the garden or flower beds, but NO, mine gotta come inside and use the box.

  16. voogru says:

    Green Police.

  17. u1itn0w2day says:

    Recycle if possible but if nothing else destroy your garbage when possible. Including shredding stuff with your name on it. Smaller trash takes up less space. Don’t throw junk mail in the can- thoroughly rip it up or shred it for recycling. Something in the trash identified this person.

    On the other hand I take a bag of cat litter into court and tell them this is what would be filling up a landfill plus any cat waste. At least shredded paper takes some landfill volume and tonnage out of the picture. I’d bet the shredded newspaper would deteriorate faster than cat litter since it’s designed to hold odors and fluids.

    • dolemite says:

      It’s basically made of dirt. I think it will deteriorate at the same rate at the dirt. You know what they bulldoze over the landfill with as they fill it in? Dirt.

  18. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Really confused. Look at this quote:

    “DPW recycling investigators are looking for evidence of co-mingling of trash with recyclables. We are finding contamination of the recyclables that is clearly coming from someone who lives or works in the building or in the trained perspective of our investigators, the problem is ‘systemic’ where poor receptacle placement, labeling and/or education have contributed to obvious contamination.

    Read more: http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/dc/dc-resident-fined-thousands-for-not-recycling-cat-litter-121311#ixzz1gWRs6Hh5

    Sounds like they are saying she IS recycling the cat litter… Again, confused.

  19. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Actually – the garbage man can go through your trash. My garbage company periodically sends reminders about putting recyclables in the trash. They clearly state if something is moldy or gross in some other way, it’s OK to throw a few occasional items in there. As a general rule, though, all cans, bottles, #1 and #2 plastic, corrogated cardboard and newspapers must be recycled.

    That being said…while I wouldn’t use shredded newspaper and junk mail for my cat’s litter box, what is this woman supposed to do with it? Dig a hole in the back yard?

  20. pileofcrapola says:

    This is nothing new for DC residents. There has been an ongoing increase in snooping over the last year or so by the garbage / recycling folks. Both residential and business trash bins have been targeted. Even if someone else puts something in there that doesn’t belong, you are still expected to know about it and remove it before collection occurs. Enjoy the “greening” of your city.

  21. dolemite says:

    Recycle cat litter? I didn’t even know that was an option. I’ve been dumping it in the trash all these years.

  22. bonzombiekitty says:

    Philadelphia also issues fines for mixing recycling with trash. I got hit with it twice a couple years ago when the city went on a sudden trash enforcement binge.

    And it wasn’t even that we weren’t recycling. Our recycling bin had been stolen, so we were using a box with “Recycling” written on the side. We did this for a few weeks without issue. Then one day I came home between the time the trash guys came and the time the recycling guys came. The trash guys had taken our recycling and left us a ticket for mixing recycling with the trash.

    So we figured “OK, we’ll need to get a proper recycling bin because the trash guys aren’t reading the side of the box, and don’t realize it’s recycling”. We didn’t have time to get a proper bin within the week, so we didn’t even take out recycling the following week.

    Of course, we got another ticket the next week for mixing trash and recycling (which we didn’t do – our recycling was inside). I’m guessing that because we didn’t put out a recycling box, and we had gotten a ticket the previous week, they had assumed we had mixed it all together again.

    • adamwade says:

      What kind of communities do you people live in????

      And to think I balked at my town charging for town trash bags. I pay $2/bag, and can put anything I dang well please in there. I recycle many things, but not everything – I’m not going to sit and wash trash like ketchup bottles. In our case, the trash the town takes goes to the incinerator, and recyclables are sorted out before it goes in anyway, so basically I’m just paying to be lazy with those.

      I’m starting to appreciate the deal I have – if I had fines for not putting out a recycling bin because I didn’t have stuff to recycle that week, I’d be in front of the town council so fast I’d get whiplash.

  23. u1itn0w2day says:

    One thing that makes this law and enforcement policy unfair is that private residents are exempt and yet private residents throw away more crap. Including the new tv box they can’t wait til recycling day to put out, half used paints,puttys, sealers, fillers and cleaning fluids-besides pollution this stuff is weight & volume. Then throw in all the cans and plastic bottles I see in the trash I don’t see how this can be equal enforcement. There are private residents in our neighborhood that throw the equivilent of a kitchen or bathroom every trash day. They are using residential pick up for their commercial disposal.

    I’ve seen people who pride themselves on how much they throw out wether it’s perfectly reusable or pollutes they pride themselves on how much they throw out. I’ve seen people throw out the recyclable cat litter plastic buckets.

    This is unfair enforcement of a revenue generating law/policy to keep those government workers in their jobs. It’s not about recycling, if it was they be going after private residents as well.

  24. Cyfun says:

    They must be citing her because she threw away NEWSPAPER, not CAT LITTER. The problem is that she REUSED the newspaper, REPURPOSED it as cat litter, which is a form of recycling.

    The article is poorly detailed, but I think the problem is that they want her to NOT use precious newspaper for cat litter, but to send it to their recycling facility. And for her to use “normal” cat litter and throw that away instead.

    Dumbasses don’t know what true recycling means.

  25. Not Given says:

    Shredder. Shred anything with your name or address or any account number, etc.

  26. daynight says:

    I am unclear what the threshold is. Would a used paper napkin be recyclable? What about one that was only used to sop up spilled water? Is there a distinction? Is the home made kitty litter sanitary enough to be recycled? How does the ‘investigator’ determine if a product that may be recyclable actually be of recyclable quality at the time of disposal?
    There is not enough info in the article itself to answer these questions.

  27. Bagumpity says:

    Some people see an outrage. I see an opportunity.

    Don’t like your neighbor? Just dump some used kitty litter in his trash can and watch the fines build up. You have to be a little sneaky, of course, but if Dick McDickhead plays his music too loud at 3AM or parks in your assigned spot, you now have an easy way to get paybacksies.

  28. Clux_the_Chicken_Penguin_Hybrid says:

    If DC Public Works wanted to save some money, they should stop collecting from residences with 4 or more units, which is District policy anyway. Just don’t even pick it up. Residences with 4 or more units are supposed to contract with private garbage and recycling collection services. At least that’s what I understand from reading the site. And if they want a place to start doing that, I’ll give them my old address. My ex-slumlord was (and still is) a sh*t head.

  29. MikeVx says:

    And this sort of idiocy is why I shred anything other than admail and magazines that has my name on it. The admail and magazines go into the recycling bin, anything else with my name is shredded or disposed of by whatever method is necessary. I can’t keep track of the changing rules on all this, so I make sure that there is nothing that can identify me in the trash, if I miss something that should not be there, they are stuck with the “someone put it there” problem (known to happen) and no way to prove who it was.

  30. yevarechecha says:

    I live just over the line in Montgomery County, MD. The Division of Solid Waste Services website explicitly says you CANNOT recycle anything contaminated with kitty litter. What a difference a quarter mile makes.

    The idea of recycling cat scat had literally never occurred to me in my life. I mean, it’s…poop. Why would you recycle that? I don’t take a dump in my recycling bin, so why would I put my cat’s waste in there?

  31. jake.valentine says:

    Any local government that has enough employees to snoop through the trash of their citizens has “fat” to cut. This is nothing short of ridiculous. Government should stick with essential services which keeps taxes to a minimum.