Start a Multifamily Recycling Program
Why Recycle at a Multifamily Complex?
Recycling has many rewards that make it well worth the effort!
- Save money. Many multifamily programs find that by recycling, they can reduce the number of trash pick-ups per week and thus their trash bill.
- Enhance resident satisfaction and public image. Recycling is the norm and many residents now expect their properties to offer recycling. Recycling is a great way to stand out and attract positive attention for your complex.
- Support the local economy and community. Recycling produces more jobs locally than waste disposal. It promotes the health of a local community and environment.
- Divert waste from landfills. With only one landfill left in St. Louis County, there is a great need to divert waste from landfills. Residents in multifamily complexes can make a significant difference by recycling.
What Can Be Recycled?
What a multifamily dwelling can recycle is determined through a negotiation with trash or recycling haulers. The most convenient and successful type of recycling service is called single stream recycling. Single stream recycling allows residents to recycle the most materials and also offers the convenience of “commingling” all recyclables in one container.
There are some companies that offer only paper recycling or require a separation of paper and containers. However, St. Louis County encourages multifamilies to pursue single stream, as it has proven to increase the amount of materials recycled.
Four Easy Steps:
Recycling containers should be located near trash collection sites so residents can recycle and throw trash away simultaneously.
Recycling containers should be a different color, shape, or size from your trash containers to distinguish the two and reduce contamination.
1. Know your current waste management practices
Before you start a recycling program, you need to understand
your current waste management practices. A few questions
to ask are:
- What is the name of the waste hauler?
- Who handles the contract for the hauler?
- When does your contract expire?
- Are you able to modify your contract?
- How many dumpsters are on the property?
- How many times per week is trash picked up?
- Who takes trash to the dumpsters – residents, a facility manager, or someone else?
The answers to these questions will help you with the next two steps of determining a recycling collection method and discussing recycling services with a hauler.
2. Determine a method for collection
The collection methods chosen by multi-families are as diverse as the properties themselves. Each property will need to find a unique method of collection that works for them. Property Managers can discuss collection methods with their haulers or contact St. Louis County for a consultation. There are three main collection methods:
- Outside drop-off sites: Recycle bins are located outside near dumpsters or other trash collection areas. Residents bring recyclables out to these collection sites.
- Interior drop off sites: Recycle bins are located inside the building in storage areas or communal areas. Maintenance staff then transfers the materials to outside locations for hauler pick up.
- Door-side pick up: Residents put recycling outside their apartment doors and maintenance staff or a recycling company picks them up for hauler pickup.
3. Negotiating contracts for recycling pick-up
Both trash haulers and recycling service companies will pick up recycling from multifamily complexes. If you are happy with your trash hauler, the easiest way to establish recycling would be to negotiate an expanded contract that includes recycling.
If your trash hauler cannot provide recycling or doesn’t provide single stream recycling, you can still begin a program by contracting with a specialized recycling pick-up company. To get the best contract, you can request proposals/competitive bids from several trash or recycling haulers.
The following questions should be addressed during a contract negotiation:
- What types of materials will they accept and do they need to be sorted?
- What materials are not acceptable and is there a fine if recycling is contaminated?
- Do they require a minimum amount of recycling to provide pick-up services?
- What is the cost for recycling pick up?
- Will the complex pay less as the amount of recycling increases?
- What type of educational materials can they provide for your residents?
- Can they measure the amount of recycling generated and provide data?
What do trash and recycling haulers usually provide?
- Large outdoor recycling bins or dumpsters.
- Consultation on size, location, and number of recycling containers needed.
- Educational materials including a list of recyclable materials.
- Some can provide a tonnage of recycling picked up from the complex.
How much will it cost?
Pricing varies on recycling pick-up. However, implementing a recycling program should either be cost neutral or save your complex money. Because recycling is cheaper to haul than trash, replacing trash pick-ups with recycling pick-ups should reduce your overall trash bill.
Resident education is extremely important. Without knowledge of the program, staff and residents will not participate. We suggest that complexes provide educational materials to residents during their move-in and semi-annually afterwards. It is important to let residents know:
- Why they are recycling,
- what they can recycle,
- where to recycle, and
- who to contact for more information.
If your multifamily dwelling prints a monthly newsletter, include a brief blurb about recycling in every publication to encourage residents to continue or begin recycling. How about reducing waste further by launching an electronic newsletter for residents with computers?
Challenges and Solutions
Limited space in multifamily dwellings
Many people find that they have limited space within their unit for a recycling bin. One solution is for tenants to use flexible recycle totes or thin recycling bins that will fit inside kitchen cabinets or closets. There are many different types of recycle bins created for multifamily units and other tight spaces. Another suggestion is to turn your large trash container into a recycling bin, since most of your waste is recyclable. You can use a smaller container for non-recyclable waste.
A supplemental method to address this issue is to educate residents about the importance of recycling, and thus the importance of finding space to collect recycling.
Limited space on the actual property
Limited space on the property can be an issue when trying to locate recycling dumpsters or outdoor drop-off sites. The best way to address this problem is to be flexible with the type of recycling container you use. Perhaps your complex is large enough that you can put a recycling dumpster next to each trash dumpster. However, if it you don’t have the space, consider using totes or several large trash bins that can hold as much volume but take up less space.