Recycling for Renters

Pilot programs at apartment complexes getting mixed results

Across the Valley, slowly but surely, recycling bins are beginning to return to apartment complexes following a six-year hiatus. But the question remains: Do apartment residents care?

The answer is yes, says Len Christopher, CEO of Evergreen Recycling Las Vegas, a commercial recycling company that began a number of pilot programs in apartment complexes last year.

“Let’s be real, 85 percent of the stuff coming out of apartments is recyclable,” Christopher says. “They just need to make the effort to do it.”

The key, he says, is convenience. Evergreen recently bought new, smaller bins that fit in alongside the dumpsters within the complexes. “As long as you have both a recycle bin and a waste bin near each other it’s easy,” he says.

In fact, the main issue that Evergreen has had is people taking the recycling out of the containers so that they can sell it themselves.

Brenda Lovato has had less success. The Nevada regional manager for General Services Corp. oversees three apartment complexes that have been participating in a pilot program with Republic Services, which collects recycling by mailboxes and in large bins. She says that while the mail aspect has been effective, the bins remain empty.

The difference, she says, is location. The mail-recycling bin sits right by the mailboxes and is convenient. The larger bins sit in a parking space in the back of the building, which requires residents to go out of their way to recycle.

“It’s got to be simple for people to participate,” she says.

Now that the Republic pilot program (i.e. free recycling) is coming to an end, Lovato is faced with a new issue: She must pay nearly $100 a month to Republic Services (or about 25 percent less to Evergreen) if she wants to continue. Lovato says she won’t do it.

“That is not cost-effective right now for the apartment industry,” she says. “We’ve had to lower our rents anywhere from 17 to 22 percent depending on the property and the location, and everybody’s had to do it. We cannot afford one more fixed cost on the property.” Besides, even if she could afford the program, it doesn’t seem like something that will be effective for her residents, at least outside of the mail area.

“We’ve had one resident ask about [recycling],” Lovato says. “One resid- ent out of 4,000 or 5,000 residents I have.”

It’s not the first time Bob Coyle has heard it. The vice president of governmental affairs for Republic Services says the company has been trying to sell the mail and bin program into apartments for about three months, and it hasn’t been “overly successful.”

“Some of them have said we want to have it because it’s the right thing to do. Others have said, ‘Hey, I’m not in the position to be adding to my cost structure,’” Coyle says.

Las Vegas has had historical difficulties with recycling. When Coyle moved here from California in 2004 he was shocked to find that Southern Nevada offered no commercial recycling, no apartment recycling and was still operating a first-generation recycling program. He’s made it a top priority to modernize, and the new attention to apartment recycling is a part of that.

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