You are here

City Garbage Proposals Don’t Pass Industry Smell Test

City Garbage Proposals

Waste management continues to be an important issue for city governments across the U.S. With the rising cost of moving waste to landfills and limited space, mayors are looking for ways to mandate apartment communities to cut waste. These measures include requiring more waste sorting and improving recycling at the residential level. Since San Francisco implemented a composting requirement across the city and New York City appears to be following suit, there will be a rising interest in this area, as well. 

Unfortunately, while many of these proposals are well-meaning, they do not take into account the difficulties of complying with mandates at apartment communities. Residents do not always take the time to sort their garbage into the proper receptacle. Often, they opt for convenience, which includes throwing bottles and cans in plastic bags into the recycling containers. Plastic bags do not belong in recycling containers, since they can damage the equipment at recycling containers. In addition, people are ordering from online vendors more than ever before, leaving more oversized cardboard for recycling. 

With all of these challenges, apartment owners and operators will find it hard to comply with local garbage ordinances. For example, in New York City, where there are aggressive garbage ordinances, maintenance staff are forced to sort through garbage and recycling bins daily to prevent local sanitation agency violations. When apartment communities do receive sanitation tickets for improper recycling, management usually does not know which residents are failing to comply with NYC sanitation laws. It is nearly impossible to prevent violations in the future. In the fall of 2017, the mayor also proposed composting requirements at residential buildings as part of the NYC’s participation on the Paris Climate Agreement, adding a new operational hurdle for apartment management across the city. 

The apartment industry supports voluntary recycling measures; the pilot program in Orlando is a good example. The City worked together with stakeholders, including the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando, to create practical ways to increase recycling and reduce the garbage sent to landfills. In addition, many nonprofits offer drop-off sites for city residents, including those in apartment communities, to drop off food waste and harder to recycle items, such as plastic bags, batteries, etc. Improving city signage on garbage receptacles and recycling education programs can also improve resident participation in city recycling programs. These programs benefit apartment communities and the city as a whole, by offering a convenient alternative to any garbage mandate.

Voluntary programs are the keys to success. Local mandates only serve to burden apartment owners and operators and limit opportunities for city and industry collaboration.

For more information on waste management or recycling policy concerns, please contact Holly Charlesworth, NAA Manager of Government Affairs or at 347-957-7759.