Traffic was backed up down 2nd Street South, out to Glebe Road, and all the way up to the north side of Route 50. It took me 10 minutes just to turn around and get out of the backup.
So I wasn't surprised to see the Environmental Collection and Recycling event was a record-breaker. And as it turns out, DC had an even more overwhelming demand:
The District's spring Household Hazardous Waste and E-Cycling collection turned 16th Street NW into a parking lot most of yesterday. Cars were idling for hours as people waited to drop off paint, solvents, batteries and old electronic goods at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre parking lot.Fortunately, Arlington is way ahead of DC. We already have a Household HazMat Program that allows residents to drop off materials Saturdays from 9am-3pm. When I abandoned E-CARE, I just kept my old anti-freeze and electronics in my car and headed to Fern & South Glebe (near Potomac Yards Mall) the following Saturday.
Some people eventually ditched their cars and carried cans of paint, gasoline, even TVs, walking for blocks to the site, part of Rock Creek Park, where they still faced long waits. One put a 26-inch television into a baby stroller and wheeled it in. And some just gave up.
The inconvenient truth: The D.C. government wasn't prepared for the demand to get rid of junk in an environmentally safe way. With people more aware of the need to save the planet, having a twice-a-year drop-off day no longer cuts it.
At first when I drove onto the lot, I was confused about where to go. Turns out I'd blown right past the security guard, an older man who was just shuffling out of the booth as I circled back.
He meticulously recorded my name and license plate number, then I turned to leave. I said, "Where do I go now?"
He turned back and, without saying a word, slowly and dramatically raised his pen in the direction of the drop-off site. High comedy.
The drop-off site was doing a brisk business and there were a few other cars unloading as I pulled up. I hauled my old PlayStation 2 out of my trunk and an attendant excitedly said, "Oh, great! We have a guy who fixes those and gives them to kids."
Hopefully DC will follow Arlington's lead and introduce a similar drop-off program. Really, what have they been waiting for? I guess sometimes it takes a train-wreck like Saturday's to demonstrate how woefully inadequate something is.