Adopting Recycling is Becoming Easier and More Desirable in Multifamily

community recycling

Contracting with a waste management vendor is the first step toward getting the ball rolling on community recycling. But the presence of recycling bins isn’t always enough to get residents involved in one of the most common earth-friendly initiatives.

The success of any multifamily recycling program comes from within. Property managers and leasing staff hold the keys to community wide participation, not just the waste management vendor.

“The staff on each property is as important as anybody in starting a program,” says Susan Holley, Community Waste Disposal’s Director of Business Development. “It takes promotion from the management company’s onsite personnel. Many residents want recycling.”

Apartment residents embracing recycling programs in all classes

Holley works with Dallas/Fort Worth area multifamily properties to start and manage recycling programs. In recent years, more apartments are embracing programs that recycle materials rather than sending them to landfills.

Recycling makes an impact on the environment. According to CWD, recycling one ton of paper saves 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons of water, two barrels of oil, 4,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and three cubic yards of landfill space.

Holley says residents are driving properties to work with waste management companies to repurpose glass, plastics, aluminum cans and other materials such as boxes and newspapers. She gets calls from residents who visit the CWD website asking how to start recycling at their communities.

In recent years, most apartment classes – not just the upper tier – have begun viewing recycling programs as a perk. In 2015, recycling was among the top five community amenities in the National Multifamily Housing Council/Kingsley Apartment Resident Preferences Survey.

One reason for wider implementation is because more cities are making recycling mandatory; another is most Americans now want to participate in programs with the younger generations fueling that request.  More awareness and education on what can be recycled is helping drive participation, Holley says.

“Kids get educated at school about recycling while the general public gets educated via the news, social media, and in print. In turn, more and more people are interested in recycling,” Holley said.

Effective programs start at the onsite level with promotion

While apartment residents may want to recycle, the program won’t be effective unless they are encouraged, educated and shown how the program is user friendly. Properties with successful programs constantly remind residents to participate through messaging in community portals, bulletins and newsletters, Holley says.

“The biggest thing is to promote on site,” Holley said. “We have one community that reminds residents what can be recycled and what can’t be recycled. They push their residents to recycle. They even have resident contests between properties to see who recycles the most. You have to keep reminding people. It’s not hard to do. The more you remind them, the better.”

Higher resident participation justifies the investment a property makes with offering a program.

Single-stream collection making it easier to recycle

Holley said that waste management companies have made it easier for apartments to recycle by employing single-stream collection – items don’t have to be separated like they once were and can be dumped in a common bin. Also, receptacles are compact enough that they can sometimes fit into a single parking place, reducing the need for big, bulky and unsightly compactors or boxes that are limited where they could be installed.

“The one thing we hear from properties is they say they don’t have room in the community for a recycling container or for residents to keep an extra bag in the apartment,” she said. “If you place the container in the right location, it will take only one parking space. Usually, we suggest for every 150 units that you have one eight-yard recycling bin.”

All residents need to do is drop items in the container and let recycling companies do the rest. It doesn’t hurt that the items be relatively clean so they aren’t rejected during the sorting process.

Programs can be tailored to fit the community’s needs

Recycling programs, Holley said, can be tailored to fit the community – no matter the size – depending on participation. Less or more frequent scheduled pickup times can be established to coincide with recycling volume.

Because more people want it, Holley sees recycling as a marketable amenity that allows apartments to make a statement about sustainability.

“There’s really no reason why people shouldn’t recycle,” she said. “The mindset has changed, it’s not just for the Class A properties. It’s for a lot of other properties as well. If management is pro-recycling then their onsite people will encourage residents to use the program. It should be considered an amenity.”


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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