Recycling Multifamily Property

Owners and managers of multifamily properties have an unique opportunity to positively impact waste management by offering recycling programs onsite to encourage tenant recycling behavior.

Multifamily Waste Management

Unlike single-family rental properties, owners and managers of multifamily dwellings are responsible for providing additional management and services to their tenants to maintain the property’s performance.  Waste disposal is a big factor, and proper organization of waste management services promotes the safety, health and beauty of the community.

Depending on the city, multifamily dwellings can be described as a property with anything from 4 more or more units to an apartment complex with hundreds of units (and thousands of tenants).  Understandably, managing waste removal programs for thousands of tenants is a huge undertaking.

Multifamily Recycling Programs

Recycling is considered one of the easiest ways to positively impact the environment, by reducing the amount of solid waste contributing towards greenhouse gas emissions and landfill space.  Despite the benefits of recycling, and the huge impact they could have, residents of multifamily dwellings are less likely to recycle than those who live in a single-family home.

Historically, multifamily dwellings (MFD) were not designed with recycling in mind, making recycling inconvenient for tenants. While curbside collection works well for single-family and duplex homes, it is difficult to regulate a standard collection procedure for multifamily apartment buildings.

MFD tend to work with private waste management companies because the properties vary greatly in size and layout, it’s necessary for each apartment complex to have its own system.

Obstacles for Multifamily Recycling

While recycling drop-off sites managed by a city are available for use by all residents, they are often underused by apartment dwellers.  MFD tenants tend to have limited space to store recyclables and must make frequent trips to the drop-off sites, making recycling inconvenient.  Inconvenience is the number one reason most people do not recycle.

How to Start a Recycling Program at your Property

Despite these obstacles, communities can increase recycling rates in their MFDs by:

  • Requiring that building management provide recycling opportunities
  • Developing programs that encourage resident and management recycling
  • Providing assistance with program design and education

Apartment owners and managers can increase recycling by their tenants by making it more convenient and implementing a recycling program at the property.  Some state and local laws also require MFD owners to address waste management and recycling initiatives by requiring MFD to provide onsite recycling based on a minimum number of units.

An onsite recycling program benefits owners, managers, the environment, the community and tenants.

Recycling Program Benefits

  1. Decreased waste disposal costs for building owners and households
  2. Bring buildings into compliance with applicable MFD recycling laws/regulations
  3. Help achieve local and state recycling goals
  4. Make recycling more accessible to the the community, by increasing the convenience of recycling that previously only residents of single-family homes enjoyed
  5. Reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill and make a positive impact on the environment

Beyond helping the environment, one of the best incentives for managers and owners is the fact that recycling onsite can save you money!

Solid waste management costs are often reduced if residents recycle enough material to decrease the trash container size or collection frequency. This is because many haulers collect recycling at a lower cost than collection and disposal of an equal volume of trash.

To successfully establish an onsite recycling program at your multifamily property, a major focus needs to be on on convenience and education.

Prioritize Convenience

  • Recycling should be just as convenient as taking out the garbage. Recycling containers should be located in the same area as the garbage containers so it is easy for tenants to recycle when they take out their trash.
  • Place recycling containers in common areas such as the mail area and laundry room.
  • Provide in-unit bins that fit conveniently under a kitchen sink or pantry area
  • Providing collection containers that are easy to store is another key to MFD recycling success.

Focus on Education:

  • Provide recycling information to your tenants at least once per year and to all new residents when they move in. Check with your local waste management agency to find guides and materials to give your tenants and display at your property.
  • Make sure that your garbage and recycling bins are clearly labeled.
  • Due to the frequent tenant turnover in most complexes, conducting these programs on a recurring basis is critical.

Some properties have found success by requiring tenants to recycle as part of their lease terms and will fine residents if recyclable material becomes contaminated with solid waste.  Other properties have performed community wide recycle campaigns to produce measurable results in the form of tenant recycle contests.

While specific programs like these may be difficult to regulate or implement, it is great way to encourage community involvement and hold your tenants accountable for meeting the goals of your onsite recycling program.

When creating or evaluating a recycling program for your multifamily property, check with your state and local laws to find out how to be compliant and if their are any funding opportunities to assist you in starting a new program.

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