Recycling is not equally available to everyone

Chances are recycling is not working for you if you live in a multifamily community in the metro area.

Look inside shared waste stations for many apartments, condos or trailer homes in our region and you have a good chance of finding a mess of overflowing containers with recycling in the garbage and garbage in the recycling. It may even be impossible to actually get to those overflowing containers because there is an old abandoned coach, rain soaked mattress and fried out TV in the way.

Metro and regional cities got together to explore why this is a common experience in multifamily communities and to determine what to do about it.

The partners sifted service level data, sorted trash and listened to people.

This is especially exciting because it’s:

  • the first study of its kind in the region
  • comprehensive in scope (asking how much contamination, how much recycling, how much waste, special problems, national trends)
  • the first test for Metro’s equity lens (including interviews with low income and tenants of color, working with culturally specific community-based organizations to host 4 tenant discussion groups,  highlighting the importance of tenant perceptions)

The research project is complete and the study is now available.

 

Findings: Education alone will not fix this problem. There are systems problems.

1. Containers are not big enough and collection is not frequent enough for the volume of material.

 Is this a garbage only or a recycling container?

Is this a garbage only or a recycling container?

  •  8% of multifamily communities have no mixed recycling at all.
  • 28% have no glass recycling.
  • Recycling containers for houses carry between 52% and 82% more volume per person per household than in apartments.

2. Containers and signage are confusing and inconsistent.

3. There is little to no plan for bulky waste in most properties.

The next steps for region partners include more robust stakeholder engagement to explore potential regional service standards.  Engagement will occur over the next year- a multi-year implementation period would begin after that (end of 2018).

 Nick and Francis demonstrate bags for residents to collect materials and carry them to centralized recycling.

Nick and Francis demonstrate bags for residents to collect materials and carry them to centralized recycling.

In the meantime, Master Recyclers are helping right now on a site by site basis. Local jurisdictions assist property managers with best practices and then Master Recyclers go door to door to talk with residents about how to use the resulting new systems. Check the volunteer calendar to find opportunities.

This is important and impactful work especially knowing that larger systemic change will take time. Thank you for your efforts to make recycling easier for everyone in the region!