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Multifamily Dwelling Recycling

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Multifamily Dwelling Resources

In Saint Louis County, waste haulers are not required by ordinance to include recycling with their services for multifamily dwellings (apartments and condominium complexes). However, many haulers will work with property management to meet the recycling needs for a property. Read more to find out where you can drop off recycling. Better yet, discover how you can help start a successful recycling program for your complex.

Click for Multifamily Recycling Guide

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Multifamily Recycling

Multifamily recycling is an on-site recycling collection system for residents that occupy multifamily dwellings. Multifamily dwellings include sprawling apartment complexes, high rise buildings, townhomes, and condos. Recycling in multifamily dwellings has challenges, but increasingly, it is an amenity that residents and tenants expect and demand.

Fortunately, recycling is easier with improved processing techniques and the simple single stream collection method where all recyclable materials can be commingled into the same container. To discover what can and cannot be recycled in Saint Louis County, please see What Can I Recycle Curbside?

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No Recycling at Your Multifamily Dwelling?

Some multifamily properties have evaluated their waste stream and found it beneficial to offer recycling to their residents. On the other hand, because recycling is not required for multifamily dwellings, many property owners do not include a recycling service.

In Saint Louis County, you have some alternatives to throwing it all away.

Moving In

Stress your desire for recycling to your property manager upon move-in.
If management doesn’t know their residents want recycling service, they probably won’t bother looking into it. In many cases, property managers will try to accommodate their residents’ requests to reduce turnover. Talk to Property Management about the benefits of recycling on-site. Let management know if you are willing to volunteer to educate your fellow residents if they consider starting a recycling program.

Collect all your recyclable materials while unpacking.
Instead of sending all the packing materials to the dumpster, reuse what you can and recycle the rest. Break down and flatten all cardboard boxes and return to a packing store or take to a recycling drop-off (Recycling Dropoff Locations ). Newspaper may be dropped off at your nearest recycling facility as well. Clean bubble wrap and packing peanuts are recycled at select Pak Mail locations. Visit www.loosefillpackaging.com for locations.

Weekly Recycling

Set up an area in your unit to collect recycling.
Up to 70% of your household waste can be recycled. Recycling works best if you place a recycling container next to your garbage can. If you have two levels in your unit, it is helpful to place another recycling bin upstairs. You might have to drop off your recyclables weekly or every other week, depending on your personal waste stream. See our Recycling Dropoff Locations listing for recyclable materials and the facility nearest you!

Recycle at local schools.
If you’ve been around Saint Louis County a little while, you may have noticed the green and yellow “Paper Retriever” dumpsters located in the parking lots of schools, churches and non-profit entities. Did you know that the paper is collected to raise money for projects important to their organization?Y ou can help by recycling your catalogs, junk mail, magazines, newspaper, and office paper in a Paper Retriever bin. Find a bin at www.paperretriever.com.

Moving Out

Donate or sell your old household goods.
With proper planning, your old items can be reused by someone who can really use what you no longer need. It’s surprising how many folks are looking for a good bargain. You might even make some extra money for your move. Find a buyer online or donate to a local charity. For a place to unload your unwanted items, see Options for Reusable Items.

Dispose of household chemicals responsibly.
Don’t make waste in the first place is a great motto to live by. Why not take some time to inventory those household hazardous chemicals you cannot take with you? Consider sharing leftovers such as fertilizer, paint, antifreeze and cleaners with neighbors or friends. Some automotive shops will take used motor oil. See our Household Hazardous Waste page for more information.

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Start a Multifamily Recycling Program
Why Recycle at a Multifamily Complex?

Recycling has many rewards that make it well worth the effort!

  • Save money. Many multifamily programs find that by recycling, they can reduce the number of trash pick-ups per week and thus their trash bill.
  • Enhance resident satisfaction and public image. Recycling is the norm and many residents now expect their properties to offer recycling. Recycling is a great way to stand out and attract positive attention for your complex.
  • Support the local economy and community. Recycling produces more jobs locally than waste disposal. It promotes the health of a local community and environment.
  • Divert waste from landfills. With only one landfill left in St. Louis County, there is a great need to divert waste from landfills. Residents in multifamily complexes can make a significant difference by recycling.
What Can Be Recycled?

What a multifamily dwelling can recycle is determined through a negotiation with trash or recycling haulers. The most convenient and successful type of recycling service is called single stream recycling. Single stream recycling allows residents to recycle the most materials and also offers the convenience of “commingling” all recyclables in one container.

There are some companies that offer only paper recycling or require a separation of paper and containers. However, St. Louis County encourages multifamilies to pursue single stream, as it has proven to increase the amount of materials recycled.

Four Easy Steps:

Container Considerations:

Recycling containers should be located near trash collection sites so residents can recycle and throw trash away simultaneously.


Recycling containers should be a different color, shape, or size from your trash containers to distinguish the two and reduce contamination.

1. Know your current waste management practices

Before you start a recycling program, you need to understand
your current waste management practices. A few questions
to ask are:

  • What is the name of the waste hauler?
  • Who handles the contract for the hauler?
  • When does your contract expire?
  • Are you able to modify your contract?
  • How many dumpsters are on the property?
  • How many times per week is trash picked up?
  • Who takes trash to the dumpsters – residents, a facility manager, or someone else?

The answers to these questions will help you with the next two steps of determining a recycling collection method and discussing recycling services with a hauler.

2. Determine a method for collection

The collection methods chosen by multi-families are as diverse as the properties themselves. Each property will need to find a unique method of collection that works for them. Property Managers can discuss collection methods with their haulers or contact St. Louis County for a consultation. There are three main collection methods:

  • Outside drop-off sites: Recycle bins are located outside near dumpsters or other trash collection areas. Residents bring recyclables out to these collection sites.
  • Interior drop off sites: Recycle bins are located inside the building in storage areas or communal areas. Maintenance staff then transfers the materials to outside locations for hauler pick up.
  • Door-side pick up: Residents put recycling outside their apartment doors and maintenance staff or a recycling company picks them up for hauler pickup.

3. Negotiating contracts for recycling pick-up

Both trash haulers and recycling service companies will pick up recycling from multifamily complexes. If you are happy with your trash hauler, the easiest way to establish recycling would be to negotiate an expanded contract that includes recycling.

If your trash hauler cannot provide recycling or doesn’t provide single stream recycling, you can still begin a program by contracting with a specialized recycling pick-up company. To get the best contract, you can request proposals/competitive bids from several trash or recycling haulers.

The following questions should be addressed during a contract negotiation:

  • What types of materials will they accept and do they need to be sorted?
  • What materials are not acceptable and is there a fine if recycling is contaminated?
  • Do they require a minimum amount of recycling to provide pick-up services?Do they require a minimum amount of recycling to provide pick-up services?
  • What is the cost for recycling pick up?
  • Will the complex pay less as the amount of recycling increases?
  • What type of educational materials can they provide for your residents?
  • Can they measure the amount of recycling generated and provide data?

What do trash and recycling haulers usually provide?

  • Large outdoor recycling bins or dumpsters.
  • Consultation on size, location, and number of recycling containers needed.
  • Educational materials including a list of recyclable materials.
  • Some can provide a tonnage of recycling picked up from the complex.

How much will it cost?

Pricing varies on recycling pick-up. However, implementing a recycling program should either be cost neutral or save your complex money. Because recycling is cheaper to haul than trash, replacing trash pick-ups with recycling pick-ups should reduce your overall trash bill.

4. Education

Resident education is extremely important. Without knowledge of the program, staff and residents will not participate. We suggest that complexes provide educational materials to residents during their move-in and semi-annually afterwards. It is important to let residents know:

  • Why they are recycling,
  • what they can recycle,
  • where to recycle, and
  • who to contact for more information.

If your multifamily dwelling prints a monthly newsletter, include a brief blurb about recycling in every publication to encourage residents to continue or begin recycling. How about reducing waste further by launching an electronic newsletter for residents with computers?

Challenges and Solutions

Limited space in multifamily dwellings

Many people find that they have limited space within their unit for a recycling bin. One solution is for tenants to use flexible recycle totes or thin recycling bins that will fit inside kitchen cabinets or closets. There are many different types of recycle bins created for multifamily units and other tight spaces. Another suggestion is to turn your large trash container into a recycling bin, since most of your waste is recyclable. You can use a smaller container for non-recyclable waste.

A supplemental method to address this issue is to educate residents about the importance of recycling, and thus the importance of finding space to collect recycling.

Limited space on the actual property

Limited space on the property can be an issue when trying to locate recycling dumpsters or outdoor drop-off sites. The best way to address this problem is to be flexible with the type of recycling container you use. Perhaps your complex is large enough that you can put a recycling dumpster next to each trash dumpster. However, if it you don’t have the space, consider using totes or several large trash bins that can hold as much volume but take up less space.

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Improve Your Recycling Program
Evaluate Progress
  • Watch and record fluctuations in waste collection over time. As you track your progress, you may notice that the trash dumpsters aren’t as full as they used to be. You may see that you need more recycling pickups than you anticipated.
  • When you evaluate the level of recyclables compared to the level of trash, you will see if you can decrease the number of trash pickups in a week. This is how you can save money by recycling.
  • Coordinate with your property manager to analyze waste costs. After the program has successfully been in place for a while, compare the cost of having strictly trash picked up versus the cost of combined trash and recycling pickup. You will find many different ways to utilize the cost savings.
Promote Recycling
  • The more your recycling program is promoted, the better participation will be. Kick-off parties, recycling messages that are simple and concise, and surveys can boost program participation. High participation rates can be maintained when the recycling message is consistently reinforced. Provide recycling information in welcome packets so residents know recycling is a way of life in the community.
  • Examples of educational materials are flyers, door hangers, brochures, and newsletters. Saint Louis County can provide some educational templates and materials for your use.
  • Provide feedback to staff and residents. Let them know when participation increases and when they’re recycling correctly. Also communicate negative outcomes. Correct problems as they occur. Tell residents about contamination and why it is a problem.
Go Greener

Once your recycling program is up and running, you can consider putting more green initiatives into place. Your complex will reap the benefits of going greener when you reduce waste and energy consumption. Consider the suggestions below for your complex:

  • Go paperless and use your website or email to correspond.
  • Use print materials only for residents without a computer.
  • Setting up a space for residents to compost.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Seal windows and doors by weather stripping.
  • Purchase only appliances with Energy Star rating.
  • Recover reusable construction materials when renovating units.
  • Implement sustainable designs when renovating units.
Green tips for residents:
  • Purchase reusable items.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use.
  • Set the thermostat at a low temperature when no one is home.
  • Use safe alternatives instead of harsh household chemicals.
  • Conserve water.