Stay in the Know - Subscribe to Our Newsletters
Join a network of more than 90,000 waste and recycling industry professionals. Get the latest news and insights straight to your inbox. Free.
In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, you’ll hear a popular WasteExpo session: Multifamily Recycling: Ordinances, Pilot Projects, Challenges and Opportunities. The discussion centered on the challenges and opportunities related to multifamily recycling. Some cities across the U.S. have implemented mandatory recycling ordinances for commercial and multifamily properties, and others have launched pilot projects in an attempt to change behavior and combat contamination issues.
October 10, 2022
In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, you’ll hear a popular WasteExpo session: Multifamily Recycling: Ordinances, Pilot Projects, Challenges and Opportunities.
The discussion centered on the challenges and opportunities related to multifamily recycling. Some cities across the U.S. have implemented mandatory recycling ordinances for commercial and multifamily properties, and others have launched pilot projects in an attempt to change behavior and combat contamination issues. But there is still much work to be done in this area. The speakers talked about complying with ordinances, data from pilot projects, and more.
The panelists were: Ruth Abbe, Principal, Abbe & Associates, LLC; Evan Novell, Sustainability Project Manager, City of Orlando's Solid Waste Division; Amy Thomaides, Community Enhancement Initiatives Manager, City of San Marcos; and David Tonjes, Director, Waste Data and Analysis Center, Stony Brook University. The session was moderated by Craig Wittig, Senior Director of Grant Implementation at The Recycling Partnership.
Here’s a sneak peek into the conversation:
Wittig set the stage by noting that recycling is currently unavailable to roughly one-third of the approximately 22 million multifamily units in the U.S. “So, just providing access is the first step, and [this discussion] will look at that process.”
Tonjes first spoke about a study his team conducted in Long Island City, Queens. They surveyed tenants in two “matching” high-rise buildings; the buildings were upscale, and the occupants were well educated and mostly progressive in their political views. “We were trying to determine if we could change their recycling behavior—improve their rates—by doing a couple of interventions.” They conducted a baseline survey and follow-up survey to measure the results, in addition to counting the number of recyclables put out each week over the course of a year.
The intervention itself consisted of 12 weeks of posters. In one building, the posters emphasized the benefits of recycling; in the other, the focus was on competition, with weekly postings of whether residents had done worse or better than those in the other building. Surveying revealed that the posters had effectively reached about 12% of residents in the buildings, but no strong patterns, or major improvements, emerged.
Novell went on to talk about Orlando’s multifamily recycling ordinance, which has been “very successful.” He noted that Orlando currently has 50,000 units, and that the local multifamily sector is expanding. “Most apartments with recycling have between .02 and .05 cubic yd/unit of recycling capacity, which is abysmal, but one of the metrics we use to gauge success in Orlando.” Stating around 2012, the Solid Waste Division began getting large numbers of requests for recycling services; several years later, work on this front began in earnest. Novell joined the department in 2017; the following year, “We had our first and second ordinance hearings and both were approved by City Council. We didn’t have any naysayers, which we credit that to doing a significant stakeholder process very early on.”
The ordinance came into effect in 2019, with a four-year phasing-in process. “This allowed us to frontload its impact by first adding our largest properties, with the biggest impact to the recycling stream; this group represented the smallest number of properties, so our routes weren’t overwhelmed by many new stops.” Later in his talk, Novell noted several common challenges to implementing multifamily recycling, which include: working with homeowner associations and their unique guidelines; a lack of space for recycling dumpsters; budgetary misconceptions; and COVID-related shifts in recycling streams; and CDL driver shortages. As of now, recycling is available to approximately 29,000 of the city’s multifamily units.
Thomaides spoke about how the City of San Marcos conducted a pilot program in 2010, which went into effect the next year, to contract out multifamily recycling. (The city had offered residential curbside recycling since 2003.) A large majority of the city’s multifamily units are occupied by college students as well as low-income individuals. In an effort to engage more of these residents, Thomaides’ team did a research project, which ultimately showed a significant increase in multifamily recycling when valet service was provided. The city is currently looking to issue an RFP to provide this type of service.
Abbe’s presentation looked at the “tragedy of the commons” in multifamily recycling. “One of the issues we have is that it’s nobody’s bin,” as opposed to single-family bins, where there is often more “pride of ownership.” Her recommendations to combat these challenges center on the four “C”s: “You have to make it convenient; you have to offer clarity around what you’re trying to do; color-coding is a best practice; and providing enough capacity is key.”
The session continued onto further topics and wrapped up with an audience Q&A. Listen to the full recording here.
You May Also Like