City Officials Raise a Stink Over Paper Cat Litter


There’s more than one way to recycle, but apparently the Washington, D.C., Department of Public Works (DPW) doesn’t think so.

D.C. resident Patricia White has been fined thousands of dollars for shredding newspaper and junk mail flyers and using them as cat litter — and disposing of the contaminated material in her trash rather than in the recycling bin.

It’s awesome that D.C. has a strict recycling law on its books and is making a genuine effort to reduce the volume of waste going into landfills, but this is just silly.

White lives in an apartment complex, and DPW recycling investigators regularly search trash bins in commercial buildings (including residential buildings with four or more living units) to make sure that recyclables are going into the proper receptacles. Apparently the “garbage police,” as some refer to the inspectors, found the shredded paper — and presumably the piles of cat feces in it — in White’s garbage can and decided to throw the book at her.

Although the DPW insists that they found other recyclables in White’s trash and based their fine on that, she says the inspector admitted digging through her garbage and issuing the fines for shredded newspaper not for stray milk cartons and soda cans.

White appealed the fines in court and explained exactly why she was throwing the paper in the garbage. She even had a book full of photos documenting her actions from start to finish. Nonetheless, Judge Audrey Jenkins upheld the DPW’s citations against her.

What do you want to bet that if White had thrown her contaminated newspaper shreds into the recycling bin, she would have been fined for that?

White said in an interview with Fox 5 News that she believes in recycling and actually does recycle everything else. She also told the news crew that she believes her form of paper recycling is good for the environment.

I totally agree with her.

First of all, most junk mail comes in the form of glossy flyers (which are not recyclable in many places) and secondly, newspaper is much less of a burden in landfills than clay cat litter because it actually does decay after a while.

I suppose she could compost her cat’s litterbox leavings, but that’s risky, too. Unless it’s done right — and honestly, most composters don’t know how to do it right — the material will never get hot enough to kill parasites like toxoplasma or intestinal worms. What that means is, if litter-contaminated compost is used in gardens, vegetables and soil could harbor all sorts of nasties.

And once again, there are a lot of cities, landlords, and homeowners’ associations that don’t allow composting on commercial properties.

White plans to appeal the fines once again.

Here’s the Fox 5 news story:

(In a reader? Watch it here.)

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