FEBRUARY 6–FEBRUARY 19, 2008
Starting a recycling program
in your multifamily community
The Environmental Protection Agency reports the United States produces approximately 220 million tons of garbage a year. More than 80 percent of this garbage is deposited in landfills, 10 percent is incinerated and 10 percent is recycled. If the average apartment community has 200 units with an average of three occupants, more than 3,000 pounds of trash a day is placed in property dumpsters and deposited in our local landfill.
One effective way to reduce the amount of waste entering the landfill is to recycle. Starting a recycling program on a multifamily community takes a little planning but can have a positive impact on the environment and property operations. Besides decreasing waste entering our landfills, recycling can reduce the costs associated with waste removal. In many cases, it can cost less to remove recycled materials than trash disposal.
n Recycle bins. Calling the company that picks up your garbage is a good place to start in implementing a recycling collection process. Here are some important questions to ask the recycling vendor:
1. Does it provide outside collection containers?
2. How often will it pick up the materials?
3. Can all recycle materials be placed in one container?
4. Is there a fee for the collection service? If so, how is that fee calculated?
5. Will the company provide information on how much material has been collected?
6. Does it provide signs and educational material for the residents?
The number of recycle bins that must be placed on your property will be based on how often the materials will be picked up. A reasonable guideline is to provide one-quarter cubic yard of container for every three residents. For example, a 200-unit community with three occupants per unit would require 50 cubic yards of capacity. In most programs, the recycle bins are located next to the regular trash dumpsters, so it is important that they are clearly marked so garbage is not accidentally put in the recycle containers. It is important to check with local government regulations to learn if there are any recycling ordinances in place before implementing a program.
n Common areas. Be sure to provide recycling containers in all common area locations such as in the laundry and mail room. To prevent identity theft from discarded mail, it is important to have a secure site for disposal. If possible have a mail slot located in a wall where mail can be put through and only retrieved by staff.
n Resident participation. Resident involvement is the key element to the success of a recycling program. Once you have launched your program, the best way to get maximum participation is to continually educate and involve the residents. Updating the progress of the program in a monthly newsletter and informing the residents on the amount of waste that has been recycled will amaze and motivate them. Include recycling information and guidelines at the time of move-in to all new residents, and use the program as a marketing tool for potential residents.
Have fun activities planned to get your residents involved. Create a Web site on energy issues and planned activities. Have a collection area for aluminum cans and use the proceeds for resident activities or donate the money to a charity (www.cansforcharity.org). Have a resident party, and cook the meal on a solar oven (www.solarcooking.org). Many planned activities can be opportunities to include the surrounding neighborhood and expand the awareness of recycling.
n Turning a property "green." There are many reasons we can think of to avoid starting a recycling program. "Recycling will take too much time." "It will cost too much." "My property is too small to make a difference." These are just a few of the excuses used to justify our lack of action. Instead, we should be focused on the decisions we make in operations that can have a big impact on the environment.s