What Are You Doing About Recycling in Your Multifamily Units?

There are so many things you may already be doing to make your multifamily units more earth-friendly. You have installed low-flow showers, the latest in water-efficient toilets, on-demand tankless hot water systems, all of which are great. But, what are you doing about creating a working recycling program?

What Goes Where?

If a tenant goes out with their trash and recycling, what type of disposal facility are they going to find? Will the area be large enough to sustain the number of tenants you have? Do you have separate bins for each type of recycled material? And if you do, are they well marked to ensure your tenants know what goes where? Finally, are the bins large enough to contain the amount of waste being put in them, or do they regularly overflow?

Poorly marked recycling bins often end up being filled with non-recyclables simply because tenants are confused about what should go where. This makes it much more likely for your tenants to stop trying and harder on those working in the recycling facilities as well. However, if plan your waste disposal and recycling area correctly and place large easy to understand recycling instructions, you are on the right track.

The only thing left will be to work with your tenants to help them learn how the system works, you have a winner. Not only will the system keep the area cleaner, but by improving your system, you can reduce your waste disposal costs. It will also start a healthy lifelong habit for many of your tenants.

Waste Management and Washington State

In collaboration with King and Snohomish Counties in Washington, Waste Management developed a simple plan to help improve recycling in multifamily housing units. They called the program the “Four Cs,” which are Convenience, Color, Capacity, and Clarity. Which essentially means making sure you have the right bins in the right locations and plenty of signage explaining how to use them. A closer look at these looks like this:

  1. Convenience– All trash and recycling containers should be placed in locations that are equally accessible by all tenants.
  2. Color– Use different colored bins for different types of recycled material. This will make it easier for your tenants to learn your system.
  3. Capacity– Start with containers that are large enough to handle the number of recyclables your tenants place in them. If you have to adjust the frequency at which the waste haulage company picks up, doing so is far better than having waste overflowing all over the place.
  4. Clarity– Label your bins with image-based signage to help your tenants choose the right ones. If possible hang a sizeable instructional poster on a nearby wall that uses images and words to help everyone learn to do their part. The images are great for communities where more than one language is spoken.

Finally, the best possible thing you can do is to co-locate your trash compactor in the same spot as your recycling bins. Having everything in one place has been proven to be the most effective way to get your tenants to do the right thing.