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Recycling in a Multi-Family High Rise Condo

June 22nd, 2011 · No Comments

Our building is 16 floors with 230 efficiency, one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom units. The laundry room on each floor is accessed through a room that includes the trash chute and two large recycling containers …one for paper and one for mixed  recyclables (jars, milk containers, cans etc.)   which are emptied daily.

Montgomery County’s Department of Environment Protection (DEP) provided large, colorful, durable posters explaining what can be recycled (a big “Yes”, with a check mark and easily understood photo)  and what can’t (a NO, an X,  and a photo) be recycled. The posters were placed near the recycling bins and  could not be missed. Nonetheless, foam “clamshell” boxes, dirty pizza boxes, wire coat hangers and other “no no” items are regularly placed in the bins. Are people over-zealous? Don’t read? Don’t care? Who knows?

Changing behavior is an on-going process. After about a year I thought maybe folks stopped seeing the posters … they were too familiar. So, I removed them and am storing them to use next year. In their place I put an 8 x 10 poster thanking people for recycling and reminding them of a few key items…like NO plastic bags, NO broken glass.  I started noticing more careful recycling. Not perfect, but a definite improvement…so now I’m changing the notice every few months…a fresh message.

I organized a recycling workshop for our building, complete with gifts bins and door prizes. While only a dozen people attended, Lauren, who heads up our County’s recycling efforts, was in the lobby before the workshop, handing out bins and brochures. That helped improve things.

I contacted our County’s recycling office to see if there’s any way to track our progress…or lack thereof and was told our building has actually doubled our recycling over the last three years! Lauren told me of a 130 unit rental apartment complex that’s tripled their recycling over that period of time. With that reduction in the trash volume, the management was able to renegotiate its trash collection contract saving more than $600 a month. My goal is to make that the goal of our residents and management company. The savings would offset the 8.5% increase in water/sewer fees that starts next month.

The savings comes about because dumping fees are $56 a ton, but there’s no charge for recyclables.  And, the trash collection companies can sell a lot of that stuff (such as scrap metal and paper).

Since about 40% of our building is rental there’s a lot of turnover. To help increase our recycling rate I’m going to provide each new resident with an apartment sized recycling bin (provided by our County government) along with the County’s descriptive  brochure about how to recycle correctly.

One of my recycling frustrations, having moved from a house to an apartment just over three years ago, is the loss of my composting opportunities.  Since residents of our building haven’t perfected their recycling sorting I am sure they’d never get proper composting techniques.  Sure there are apartment solutions (worms, electric hog composters, chemicals…) but I’m not eager to do that in my unit. So, when I visit my son, I deliver a bag of the day’s peelings and coffee grinds along with the occasional baked goods and gifts for the grandchildren.

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Tags: Energy