Alia Moore has asked the city to place a recycling bin at her apartment complex, and she isn’t alone.
While the city has made strides in expanding recycling opportunities for apartment dwellers, Moore and others continue to haul their cans and bottles to recycling bins outside grocery stores.
There isn’t too much the city can do for Moore because placing a bin at her apartment complex or allowing tenants to put out city-issued “blue bags” requires the permission of the apartment owner.
“Because the property is not the city’s, we cannot mandate the rotation of the containers at each place,” said Cynthia Mitchell, the city’s landfill and recovery superintendent.
So Moore takes her cans and bottles elsewhere or, on occasion, throws them into the apartment’s Dumpster because she doesn’t have enough storage room. She said neighbors routinely carry bags of bottles and cans from her complex, Parkway Apartments on Broadway, and she believes they’d make use of a city recycling container if one were available.
“It would be a lot easier to have a bin,” she said.
Joe Doyle, a maintenance worker at Parkway Apartment, said there’s limited space for a recycling bin at the complex and that tenants seem to get along with taking their recyclables to other drop-off locations.
“They’ve got to go to grocery stores anyway,” he said.
Apartment recycling efforts began in 2000 with four moveable bins. It has since expanded to seven bins that serve about 4,000 of the estimated 7,300 apartment units in Columbia.
The city has seven containers in its apartment program that complements the blue-bag curbside pickup available to most homes. Each container serves up to three complexes and is rotated each week to serve 21 locations altogether.
Last year, 106.62 tons of recyclables were collected from the seven bins serving apartments compared with 6,600 tons of recyclables the city collected. Another $3,000 bin has been ordered that could serve three more apartment buildings, and there’s money in the city budget for two more bins. But the city is still trying to overcome a problem that it has faced since the program began — persuading apartment owners to participate.
Mitchell said the city barely found enough apartment complexes to participate when the apartment recycling program was expanded last year from four to seven containers.
“I expect that the capacity to handle an additional nine locations will be more than we will actually find that are interested,” Mitchell said.
Limited parking is the main reason why property owners are reluctant to allow city containers, Mitchell said, adding that some apartment owners also say they don’t believe their residents would participate.
Rachel Smith, assistant manager of Tara Properties, said she expressed interest a month ago in a city recycling bin and was told she’d be put on a waiting list. A few tenants had previously asked about recycling, she said, but space was a limited factor.
“Now we think it would be worthy making room for it,” Smith said.
She thinks a container could be accommodated by moving Dumpsters to provide additional room at the end of the parking lot.
Scott Adams, construction supervisor of Briar Crest Apartments, said he’s never had tenants ask him about placing a recycling container in the six years he’s worked at the complex.
Verna Drennan, manager of Ashland Manor Apartments, said a city recycling bin has served her complex for three years. In addition to her 250 tenants, Drennan said, the bin also attracts neighbors, who sometimes put more stuff in than the container can hold.
“People take advantage of it,” she said.