Panelists Explain How to Properly Run a First-Class Recycling Program

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorDenver–With sustainability initiatives sweeping the industry, recycling programs are a logical step toward greening multifamily properties. However, according to a 2005-2006 waste audit program, single-family beats multifamily in every recyclable commodity category.At the recent 2008 Multi-Housing World Conference and Exhibition, how to “sell” recycling and waste management to residents was discussed by a panel comprised of Kendall Christiansen, principal, Gaia Strategies; Ann Johnson, president/owner, Waste Tech Services Inc.; and Dana Zeff, founder and principal, The DZAP Group. Anne Sadovsky, certified speaking professional, moderated the session.Multifamily properties face a number of challenges when it comes to setting up recycling programs. For example, some municipalities consider apartment communities to be commercial properties and will not provide bins or haulers for the properties. Thus, owners and managers may choose to hire a private recycling company, but “the owners have to be convinced that it’s a smart financial move,” Sadovsky said, adding that she believes having a program gives a property a marketing advantage, as she believes recycling will eventually become mandatory.Another challenge to recycling programs in multifamily residences is the anonymity of the residents, Christiansen explained. Additionally, most multifamily programs are voluntary, thus seemingly providing little to no incentive for residents to take advantage of them. To make a program work, it must be adequate, convenient and attractive to the residents, he asserted. While having an on-site recycling program is certainly an effective marketing tool—in addition to having a positive impact on the environment—it is crucial to make sure the property is well positioned, cautioned Zeff. For a successful green campaign, first assemble a team of activists and top-level staff; then, launch the program internally before marketing it to residents, Zeff advised. Additionally, she suggested distributing reusable water bottles and shopping bags to residents—not only does it encourage recycling, but it also markets your brand.“People have to get emotionally involved to make every effort to recycle,” Sadovsky added. Residents, in addition to managers and city workers, need to be educated about the benefits of recycling, as well as how to do it properly.According to Johnson, here are some questions to consider before implementing a program:•    Is it cost-effective if the site was poorly designed?•    Can this be done safely without injuring the staff?•    Is this going to increase overtime at your property?•    What do you want to recycle and where will the service area be located?•    Is the area serviceable by large trucks or will hand pick-up be necessary?•    Will the recycling containers get in the way of your solid waste pick-up?•    Will there be any insect and/or rodent problems due to poor development, planning and design?