Washington DC Recycling Study

Thx much to Amy Senger for snagging this shaggy bit

Good news. Washington DC you are recycling newspaper, cardboard, and bottles at higher than the national rate.

Bad news. Washington DC you only recycle 18% of your trash when 36% of your trash is recyclable. This is costing the district an extra $250k and unduly burdening the environment.

2008 Residential Waste Report

Those were the findings of the latest Recycling report from the Department of Public Works for DC. The report (linked below) closely examined the trash stream to get some hard numbers. This included examining collections of trash in all 8 wards in DC.

The most striking number in the report and its conclusion was that 1 in 5 items thrown out could have been recycled (22%). The straight costs of trash are $60/ton for trash and $25/ton for recycling. If each resident were to recycle a little bit more then perhaps we could get closer to our potential 36% recycling rate mentioned above.

2008 Residential Waste Sort Report (pdf)

What You can Throw in the Blue Bin

Here is a list of items you can recycle pulled from the DPW recycling site:

  • Aerosol cans
  • Aluminum foil and aluminum pie pans
  • Aluminum food and beverage containers
  • Books (including paperbacks, textbooks, and hardbacks)
  • Brown paper bags (Kraft)
  • Cardboard and paperboard boxes (including cereal boxes without liners)
  • Computer printouts
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes
  • Ferrous and bimetal food and beverage containers
  • Glass containers such as jars and bottles
  • Junk mail
  • Magazines and catalogs
  • Milk and juice cartons
  • Narrow-neck plastic containers (other than for motor oil) that carry plastic resin identification codes 1 through 7
  • Newspapers (including all inserts)
  • Non-metallic wrapping paper
  • Office paper (including typing, fax, copy, letterhead, and NCR) and envelopes
  • Plastic bags, e.g., grocery bags, newspaper bags, and shopping bags. Please put your plastic bags into one plastic bag then place it in your recycling container. We will accept more than one bag of plastic bags.
  • Rigid plastics including plastic milk/soda crates, plastic buckets with metal handles, plastic laundry baskets, plastic lawn furniture, plastic totes, plastic drums, plastic coolers, plastic flower pots, plastic drinking cups/glasses, plastic 5-gallon water bottles, plastic pallets, plastic toys, and empty plastic garbage/recycling bins
  • Telephone books
  • Wide-mouth containers such as peanut butter, margarine/butter tubs, yogurt, cottage, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, whipped topping, and prescription (remove the identification label) and over-the-counter medicine bottles. (note that the lids and caps do not need to be removed.) Please do not include Styrofoam meat trays, lunch “clamshells” or foam packaging, such as “peanuts.”

Commercial Recycling

Whoa, you made it this far…thx for being our best readers.

Did you know that fully 70% of the waste produced in Washington DC comes from commercial business?

I didn’t either. The district throws out 800,000 tons of trash and business are the largest wasters. Thankfully the District passed a law in 1988 requiring all business to do some recycling.

Unfortunately, the rest is up to business people. The business is required to have cans on-site and required to put only correct items in those cans. With fines for not doing so…but will people actually do so?

They should. Each business has to pay directly for trash pick-up (so do HOA’s) and recycling costs less than normal trash. It is economical and fulfilling to do so. All the reasons are there…

I could not find any reports examining the actual recycling rate in commercial locations, just this helpful recycling guide:

Commercial Recycling Guide (pdf)

dc flag

Mandatory Compost in San Francisco (via marketplace)


I don’t know how it works for you, but at my house anyway, it’s the blue garbage can for recycling, the green one for yard trimmings and the brown one for trash. Nothing though, for leftover food. Unless you’ve got a composting heap in your backyard, you throw scraps right in with the regular trash, no? Not so in San Francisco. The city wants to boost its already high recycling rate by making composting mandatory.


“to push the recycling rate to 75 percent or beyond.”

The Story

This is an interesting piece that highlights exactly why A Clean Life is getting started. The story hits on all the right notes: how introducing compost into the trash stream cuts costs. In fact, in most cases it cuts them in half. A huge savings that does not even touch on the environmental impact, which itself is huge.

Then it moves onto education. Of course, everyone wants to save money and the environment but nobody knows how to compost. The companies and business involved are doing their best, but learning a new method takes time.

Unfortunately, the city of San Francisco is doing two things wrong. They are not passing on the cost savings to the people and then fining folks for not composting correctly.

Definitely progress though. We will be following this closely and even contacting the folks involved.

Though, honestly, this story is partly a press release for Recology who recently changed their name and goals to capitalize on this new market. Still it shows that the money is there and in some cases so is the political motivation.

Check out the story..

We’re Throwing Party!

A Clean Life has partnered up with Amy Senger of 1X57 to bring you our first charity event!

It will be on Thursday, May 21 during the happy hour of 7pm.

The location is in Washington DC, soon to be announced. In attendance will be anywhere from 100-150 interesting people.

Register now to attend!

Since it is a charity event there is a suggested donation amount of $25 that will be tax deductible (and include a receipt). Never too early to get your tax deductions..

Tell your friends and relatives 🙂

Also, we are looking for interesting people to contribute. Our needs are:

  • Sponsorships
  • Raffle Items (gift cards, cheap and expensive bottles of whisky, etc.)
  • Amateur Photographers (and videographers too)
  • Chef desserts, fresh made
  • Tech angle (twttr mash-up, live streaming, etc.)
  • Also, send any interesting ideas you may have…


Our First Donation

Tomorrow marks the beginning of our journey.

May 1, 2009 is the day when A Clean Life officially begins.

We are thrilled to begin and so is our grammy. She sent along the first donation of 30 dollars. Like any proud business we are going to tape it up on our wall. Except this is the internet so we have to go digital.

For our digital dollar we have this post and a series of photographs to commemorate. Enjoy!


This our grammy
This our grammy

My Birthday Card

My Birthday Card
My Birthday Card

inside of card from grammy
inside of card from grammy

Dear “Stevie”

Have a really great time on your special day!

(in her own writing)

Have a lovely birthday – just a little something to start your dreams of a clean life.

Love You.


Our First Donation

thx grammy!
thx grammy!

Her Tax Receipt

A Clean Life

California Non-Profit Corporation

501(c)3 corporation (application pending)

Dear Grammy,

Thank you for your donation to A Clean Life.

This writing is to confirm your contribution and serve as a donation receipt for tax purposes.

We received your cash contribution of $$$ on May 1, 2009. No goods or services were provided in exchange for your contribution.

Your donation is eligible for a tax deduction following applicable IRS and State guidelines.

Thanks again for your support!


Steven Mandzik, President, A Clean Life

Spencer Mandzik, Vice President, A Clean Life

For more information about our programs, services, and how your donation will be used please visit: http://acleanlife.org.

A Clean Life

19141 Randi Lane

Huntington Beach, CA 92646

We are now a 501(c)3

To All Fans and Supporters,

Yesterday, I submitted a tank of papers to the IRS to make our little operation official. The bulk of which was IRS form 1023, an application for tax exempt status under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. This establishes us an applicant for public charity status as a tax exempt corporation.

Meaning that we can now accept tax deductible donations. Anyone who donates money to us will receive an official receipt allowing them to claim the amount as a tax deduction.

We do have to wait a little bit to get started, though. Our tax year is set to start on May 1.

In the next few days we will be finalizing our start-up plans. Some items in the hopper are social mixers in DC and CA, online donations, and a drive to recycle old stuff (donate old stuff that we can sell online).

This is an exciting time for all of us and we hope to share that excitement with you a we get the business operations started.

Throughout all of this we are also committing ourselves to professionalism and corporate responsibility. Two of the tenets that fulfill those goals, as outlined in our operating ByLaws below, are a commitment to transparency and zero waste.

To that end, we plan on sharing with the public all that we can. Our first move is to share our corporate organizing documents.

The Organizing Documents of A Clean Life

Thanks for all the support from everyone. This is a very important milestone and we are very excited!


Springtime at the Dupont Farmers Market


The Dupont Farmers Market is the premier market in Washington D.C.

It is open “year round, rain or shine” and it has 2 rows of stalls, around 10-20 hawkers (depending on the season). Also depending on the season are the goods available. With each visit you can find the same reliable farmers and a rotating sprinkling of others, each bringing you the latest seasonal fare.

And there is nothing like rain or shine, especially in DC. This city is swampland and pretty murky stuff at that (the HBO mini-series John Adams, part 6, shows the city being un-swamped). Meaning that we can have all sorts of great and horrible weather. It is fantastic to have a market open all year round and available through the conditions.

Today was a perfect spring day so I ventured down to the market with Fuzzles in tow. The location is very convenient for peds/bikers since it is right next to Dupont Circle (20th between Mass and Q) and the Dupont metro. Drivers can find parking but you will have to head a few blocks away to the residentials (try 21st and O).

Man was the place packed. Everything had a line and there were even street singers and a jewelry vendor. I had forgotten what spring/summer was like at the market. For the past 6 months it was just us locavores and crunchies.

Street View of Dupont Market
Street View of Dupont Market

The regulars were there. My favorite Keswick Creamery where I bought my cheese and yogurt. The mushroom lady, seafood and fish toughins, the two bread shops, and a few seasonal vegetable farmers.

However, being Spring and good weather, about 10 new shops had popped in. The seasonal fare this early in Spring were a lot of greens and kale, apples, and beets. There was also a strong showing of dairy products, which I love.

Even the Fresh Farm folks were there (organizers of the market) making mini salads for anyone who came by.

A few things the market could add to make it a primo destination are a fun place to park the animals and a compost bin. Right now most pups are tied up behind the stalls or to a tree. It would be nice to have a friendly dog zone, where we could leash our pups and let them socialize whilst we vegetate.

The compost bin should be standard. I’m sure dealing with all the trash produced at the market is a problem, so why not use a compost bin to help the load (I sent on an inquiry to the Fresh Farms folks to see if I can take this one on).

Well to end it all, I brought home some swedish greens, lesher and cheddar cheese, fresh milk, and some yogurt.

Pups and I hoofed it home a little tired after some good walking. Where I prepared a salad with the greens, cheese, herbs, and chile’s. Then sat down with some iced coffee (using the fresh milk) to write this post.

my take at the market
my take at the market
my salad and coffee from the market
...turned into salad and coffee

Shop More, Buy Less, Eat Healthier

One of the most important features of a start-up is its founders. As my friends and I go down this journey to the trashatorium I think its crucial that we “walk the walk”.

This will mean something different to each of us and I hope we can each share our journey.

Here is one of my most basic but fundamental lifestyles:

Shop More, Buy Less, and Eat Healthier.

Grocery Shopping

I started down this path several years ago but only recently went “extreme”. By extreme I mean completely changing my grocery shopping routine. I wanted to spend less and eat better.

No more soggy sandwiches or trailing leftovers. I wanted to bring back a little European zeal, you know the vegetable stand on the way home. Or, the locally produces delicacies.

So, here is a quick wrap-up of how I changed my grocery routine.

Shop More

Sounds counter intuitive, I know. But, if you want fresh food you have to hit the store more. I wanted to have a regular amount of fruits and vegetables in my kitchen. Then I wanted to keep on hand fresh breads and cheeses (and chocolates!).

Of course, these natural items decay and ‘go bad’ real fast. This meant that if I wanted to keep around the good stuff in life, I needed to go more often.

Buy Less

Of course, I’m a frugal (extremely cheap) guy. I could not stand to double my food bill. I wanted to decrease that bill, all  while shopping more.

More opposite thinking.

It worked, though. I got into the habit of only buying what I needed for the next few days. There was an intense burrowing need to “stock-up” on things, which is still there today. But I keep reminding myself that I will be back in a few days. I can get what I need then.

Eat Healthier

With each additional trip to the store a few things began to happen. Simple things like buying less and stocking-up on fewer items. I also began to spend much less time in the store, escaping what Jerry Seinfeld talks about in his comedy bit below.

More importantly, though, I began to buy better foods. I could manage to bring home fruits and vegetables. They would get eaten and not wasted. I bought less of the packaged food that is designed to last for weeks.

In addition, to these better foods in my life, I started noticing that I eat closer to my needs, with cravings. I could buy stuff for one big meal I wanted, have fun cooking it, and eat it for the next few days.

All in all, I can’t complain that I’m eating better foods and feeling better everyday.


I love my new lifestyle. Being a regular at the store. Spending less money each time and all together. Feeling better and healthier in my diet. You should try this and/or let me know your routines.

P.S. My current favorite treat is apples with peanut butter (thanks Meredith). And, here is a clip from Jerry Seinfeld talking about the scary grocery stores:

The 5 Step Compost

One of the big initiatives of the nonprofit, A Clean Life, is education. To truly develop a sustainable lifestyle for our community we need to help each other learn and grow.

The good part is that everyone already knows an incredible amount about the trash system in their community. They know when the trash comes, how to sort their own trash, what to recycle at work, and sometimes even the local recycling stations.

Photo by Colin J. on Flickr - "we served chard and kale for dinner the other night and this was left over...

The next step is to add a new layer to that, compost. The process of composting is actually very easy. It is a lot like recycling but with an added farmer’s touch.

For those of you interested in developing your own compost, here is some information to get you started:

1. Find an indoor compost bin

2. Place compost bin in kitchen

3. Find a backyard bin

4. Dump compost in the backyard bin

5. Follow the two guidelines below for compost: acceptable material and turning.

Most of the time you can begin to compost by just using existing trash cans or bins lying around your home. A good tip is that plastic bags won’t compost, so definitely use them to line your indoor compost bin, but no need to stick it in the backyard bin.

Now on to the two most important guidelines of the whole process:

Acceptable Material

Below is a good starting list for what to compost. All of the materials below can be added to your bin. But, its important to think of compost as a living thing. You will need to make sure that you are feeding it the right stuff.

A good rule of a green thumb would be to have an equal mix of brown stuff (leaves, paper, fur) with green stuff (yard trimmings, coffee, vegetables)


tea bags




coffee/coffee grinds

cardboard/paper/newspaper (helps if shredded to 1-1.5 inch size)

egg boxes

egg shells

paper towel rolls/toilet paper rolls



dryer lint


Meat, dairy, dog doo or other waste.


Turning is simply the ‘turning over of the compost pile’. It is also one of the most interesting areas of advancement in compost. Traditionally farmers would just pile their compost up and then leave it for a few years as part of their crop rotations.

Now turning is almost mandatory for any compost pile. Studies have found that this little bit of effort, combined with a few other activities can drastically reduce the time needed to compost from years to days.

The reason being is that the microorganisms that break down your trash are real good at what they do. In the center of your pile they will be working overtime. It is very common to have the center of your pile steaming hot. So the idea is to make sure their work is spread evenly across the pile and not just breaking down the center.

If you are interested in the days portion and not the years, here are some simple steps to help you.

First, make sure to ‘turn’ your pile by grabbing a shovel or other item. Turn your pile just a bit by moving some of the edge stuff into the center. This can be done every day for maximum efficiency (time reduction), but doesn’t need to be.

Second, add water if the pile gets too dry, ideally the pile should be moist. Third, really practice your sorting. Make sure you have the right mixture of brown to green (as explained above).

Compost Soil by Normanack (on Flickr)

Fourth, and really optional, but hey someone out there wants to be a master composter. Establish a few backyard bins for use. Fill up one and then don’t add to it anymore. Since composting is a process if you keep adding new material you are starting the process over again.

If done right, you should have some amazing dirt, instead of trash. Use the dirt in your potting or backyard, or even give it some neighbors.

P.S. If ur interested in more on this, I recommend this 3 page study by Berkeley professor Robert Raabe (pdf)

Did You Know There Was a Great Garbage Patch?

I recently found out about this from a friend of mine, Scott.

It’s fairly scary topic too.

Basically, in the pacific ocean there are vast and strong currents that create a large whirpool zone, called a gyre. It is quite large, the size of texas and it collects a lot of the ocean debris, natural and artifical.


As folks have traveled through these gyre’s they are starting to notice trash, lots of it. One of these travelers, Captain Charles Moore, is just all fired up about it. He went through the North Pacific Ocean Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. If you live on the west coast, their is a strong chance you have contributed a lot to this patch.

So, after his visits he got angry did some research and is now sharing it with us.

I’ve embedded the video below, but first I want to highlight something he talks about. Take a look at this picture:

The Throw Away Life
The Throw Away Life, Life Magazine, Aug 1, 1955

As Capt. Moore will explain in the video that picture and its accompanying article describes a radical new idea, disposables. A wave of consumerism that would soon sweep through our country, and here is its first marketing pitch.

Well the pitch worked and the wave was nearly unstoppable. Now here we are on other side or still in the middle of that wave. We are such deep believers in the throw away lifestyle, that I don’t think we can imagine anything else.

Which really makes me think:

  • What is life like without disposables?
  • Is it possible to have a rabid consumer society that isn’t living a throw away lifestlye?

Maybe you can help me answer those questions.


From: The 2009 TED Talks

About: Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he’s drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.

Bio: Charles Moore is founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. He captains the foundation’s research vessel, the Alguita, documenting the great expanses of plastic waste that now litter… Full bio and more links

Founders Note

For the very first post of this blog, which is also the mouthpiece for the nonprofit, A Clean Life, I thought it would be nice to write a little note about why I am doing this.

As an introduction…my name is Steven Mandzik and I want to be a trashman.  I am here with a simple vision:

Stretch your horizons, my son, for it is a big world of possibilities open to you, by Kreyten on Flickr
Stretch your horizons, my son, for it is a big world of possibilities open to you, by Kreyten on Flickr

I want to change the way America deals with trash.

I believe we have a true opportunity to effect change over the next few years. I pledge myself to this vision. Further, I believe in transparency, local communities, and using capitalism to lead to sustainability.

In the most succinct way that is what A Clean Life is about.

Why am I here?

Let’s switch gears now. A brief bit about me to explain why I’m here.

As those who know me can testify I’m somewhat restless by nature. This agitation has led me down many roads and many career paths. Each one seemingly more opposite from the previous one. I have worked in several fields (gaming, education, intelligence, technology, website production) and nurtured multiple educational interests (psychology, teaching, law).

Each one of those started out as a hobby of mine that grew into a career goal. I do love turning my passions into productive endeavors.

Now, I’m onto my next hobby, very personal one, trash.


You know I can’t always explain where my hobbies come from. I mean of all things for someone to latch onto, why trash?

I dunno, but, I do have a ringing memory. One of those that just keeps coming back into my vision and guides/haunts me.

The memory is from the autumn of 2001. I had just graduated from UCLA and was searching for my “true calling”. Failing miserably, of course, but I happened into the library one day. I left with nothing except a silly brochure on recycling. Or so I thought.

On the way home I read that brochure and it struck a chord with me. I hung it on my wall and I distinctly remember thinking to myself “this is where I start doing something”. Funny, because I had no idea what that meant, just felt it important to do.

That is where this hobby of mine all started. Everyday I would see that brochure as I left my room. It talked about the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). I spent the next 8 years of my life systematically progressing through each stage (I will save those developments for another post).


Well…here I am then. A self proclaimed trashman with a ringing memory. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of these posts. You can keep up with me more directly on twitter as @robotchampion.