Recycling in apartment buildings can be a challenge, there's no doubt about that.
At one time I worked for a municipal blue box program and at the time, I learned that many of the tools we used to promote recycling from single-family homes simply didn't work in apartment settings. Part of the reason was that there was no way to tell who the offenders were. Once materials were placed into the bins, they all got mixed together. Unfortunately, when it comes to recycling, even a little bit of contamination can write-off the whole lot.
If this sounds familiar, don't be discouraged. Here are some tips and ideas I learned to help you get higher participation and better recycling from your tenants.
Remember, at the end of the day recycling is always the better option. Not just for the environment, but for your bottom line and everyone else's for that matter.
Promotion & Education
One thing that's often overlooked when starting a new recycling program is the need for a sustained promotion campaign. It doesn't have to be complex either. Start with a blitz a few weeks leading up to the day you intend to set your recycling bin out. Then follow up with some reminders every couple of months for the first year or so.
Before you know it, your long-time residents will be telling the new tenants all about the program, and you won't have to put as much effort into it later.
A Simple Approach
Three weeks before your recycling bin is set out
- Hang recycling posters in the common areas of your building (lobby, elevators, staircases, laundry room)
- On the same day, reach out to your tenants (email or flyer in the mailbox) and tell them about the new recycling program, when it will start and where the recycling bin will be located. Tell your tenants how to participate and which batteries they will be able to recycle in the bins.
Two weeks before
- Reach out to your tenants again (email or flyer) and show them the safe way to store batteries at home. This is also a good opportunity to show them which batteries need to be taped.
Day that you set your recycling bin out
- Try to be visible and available near the recycling bin to answer questions from tenants on the first day. If you can't be there yourself, find someone who can. It doesn't have to be all day either. Pick a couple of times during the day when people are coming and going and spend an hour or so each time.
- Finally, send out a reminder (email or flyer) every quarter or so, for the first year. If you have a newsletter that you're already sending out, reserve a section in that to talk about your new recycling program.
Remember, if language is a barrier to communication, consider having your flyers and posters translated. You can also make use of imagery where possible and do your best to keep your messages brief.
Download Posters and Social Posts
We created a series of posters, each with a different message to encourage recycling. These posters are available in 8.5" x 11" and 11" x 17" sizes. They also come in 3 colour options as well as a black and white option.
Social Media Posts
To compliment the posters, we also created Twitter and Facebook posts in .png format. These files are available as a .zip file. Extract them using WinRar or another file extraction program.
If you want people to participate in your recycling program, you have to make it easy for them. At the very least, it has to be as easy to recycle as it is to throw something in the trash.
That means you'll want to place your recycling container in an area that is close to where they would have to go to discard their trash anyway.
Ideally though, you want to make it even easier to recycle. You can do that by placing your recycling container in the lobby where everyone will see it as they go in and out of the building. If you can, place a few of your own batteries in there so people can see what it's for.
If you have a building with business tenants, consider providing each of them with a 2 gallon recycling pail. When those pails are full, you can dump them into one of our larger containers meant for shipping.
Feedback goes a long way. As often as you can, give your tenants updates about how many batteries they're recycling. Raw Materials Company provides reports that you can use for this purpose.
You can also use that information to set goals for the next quarter or year, and if you're inclined, offer a reward to your tenants if they're able to achieve it.
- Notify your service provider whenever the property manager changes. During your handover, describe how the recycling program works and who they will contact when the recycling bins are full. Keep this information readily available as part of your handover package.
- Include a recycling clause in your tenant lease and remind tenants of their obligations to participate in the building's recycling programs.
- Include a flyer that describes your recycling programs in your new tenant welcome package.
- Monitor your recycling bins and remove any garbage and non-recyclable batteries before it gets out of hand. Weekly checks at the start and then scale back as you're able.
- Ensure your recycling bins are properly labelled and undamaged. If you require a new recycling bin, labels or posters, please visit our website or get in touch with us.
Studies show that recycling makes people feel good and that most people want to do the right thing if given the opportunity. The biggest barrier to recycling is simply not knowing how a program works or that it even exists. The more you do to communicate that and provide reminders and feedback along the way, the better your recycling program will be.
You got this, go for it!
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Many of the tools we used to promote recycling from single-family homes simply doesn't work in apartment settings. Here are some tips to help get your apartment recycling program off the ground.
Did you know?
Used batteries make up less than 1% of all waste found in municipal landfills. That 1% of batteries is responsible for 88% of all the toxic heavy metals found in the landfill.
Find out more about our technology and how together we are turning waste into a valuable resource.