There's still a lot that needs to be done, but Leonard Garcia predicts the city's recycling program for apartment complexes will be up and running before spring. Garcia, director of the Solid Waste Department, estimates the amount of stuff recycled from the city's waste stream will climb from 10 percent to 12 percent once complexes of 25 dwellings or more are required to provide bins for their tenants.
That might not sound like much. Still, says Garcia, “It's a big step."
The council passed the ordinance, sponsored by Councilor Debbie O'Malley, on Nov. 6. The service will cost a complex $1.86 per unit, Garcia says, an amount homeowners pay every month already. “If an apartment manager does a good job with recycling, they may be able to decrease the amount of trash going out from their facility and could actually save money with us." With good recycling, a complex could decrease the number of times each week the garbage trucks have to come by or begin using smaller bins, which could cut prices.
The $1.86 defrays the cost of pickup for the Solid Waste Department. The actual processing and shipment of recycled materials is covered by the money the department makes from selling reprocessed waste. No additional funds from the city are needed to get apartments started on recycling, he adds.
It's mandatory for “multi-family dwellings" to provide a place for tenants to recycle, but it's “not mandatory that the individuals recycle," O'Malley says, adding that there's a lot of misinformation out there. “I was hearing that people thought it wasn't really taking place, that all the stuff we put out on our walks is just dumped into the general dump."
That's certainly not the case, according to Garcia. Part of the preparation for the additional recycling is in modifying the equipment at the facility to handle more volume. "We've looked at the way we staff and the way we handle our equipment so we can maximize the way we cope with our additional recycling," he says. The ordinance covers plastics, tins and aluminum, paper and cardboard, though tenants will not be asked to separate those materials from one another. "They will put them in one barrel, but if they're separated, it makes it easier on us in the back end," Garcia says.
Ultimately, Garcia says, the goal is to have the city recycle 100 percent of the things it can recycle and to find more ways to reuse the substances that are normally buried in our landfills. "We know that's an ambitious number, but this is one more step toward that."