For locations with high population density, apartments, condominiums, town homes, multiuse buildings and other multifamily residences are not unusual sights. In cities such as Los Angeles and New York, complexes like these often are the first choice for young adults who are looking for places to live—and with living comes production of waste and recyclables.

David Kantor, founder and CEO of Indianapolis-based WastePoint, says, “(Apartment) construction has been increasing because people have lost their homes” as a result of the recent recession. “There are people who lost their homes and used to do curbside, and a lot of the [multifamily residence] firms have come to the idea that they need to offer that amenity to residents,” he adds.

WastePoint offers recycling and waste pickup to multifamily property owners at their residents’ doorsteps (See the sidebar, “Right at your front door,” on page 62.) The Departments of Sanitation for Los Angeles and New York City also are taking the initiative to provide recycling services to multi- family residences.

Diversion in the big apple

The New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) collects paper, metal, glass and plastic from city residents. Whether these items were disposed of in a multifamily building or in a single-family home, all of these basic recyclables are loaded into the same truck and transported to Sims Municipal Recycling’s Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Brooklyn, or, in the case of paper, to Pratt Recycling in Staten Island.

For multifamily buildings with 10 or more units, three additional material streams—electronics, textiles and organics—are collected. These materials are managed and collected under three separate programs: e-cycleNYC, re-fashioNYC and NYC Organics, respectively.

“In New York City, every building is different,” says Belinda Mager, director of digital media and communications for DSNY. “They are different ages, different sizes, have different layouts and so on. We understand that we cannot have a cookie-cutter approach when working with large buildings,” she adds.

A state law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2015, prohibits placing most electronics, including computers, televisions, fax machines, VCRs, DVD players, printers, video game consoles, MP3 players, tablets and small servers, at the curb for disposal. DSNY provided residents a three-month grace period to adjust to the new regulation before fining residents $100 beginning April 1, 2015, for noncompliance.

E-cycleNYC, which began in 2013, provides the opportunity for apartment dwellers to comply with the new regulations by collecting electronics from buildings with 10 or more units. Mager says 743,000 multifamily residences are enrolled in e-cycleNYC.

“Residents place their unwanted electronics in the bin,” she says. “When the bin is full, the material is then collected and recycled.”

DSNY and ERI, headquartered in Fresno, California, created a public-private partnership to manage the program. Electronics can be stored in a dry and secure room within the building, or sites instead can opt to receive secured bins for collection. Once a building gathers 20 items, ERI collects them. The devices are shredded, and the recovered materials are sold for additional processing.

For its textiles collection, DSNY operates re-fashioNYC with Housing Works, a nonprofit organization in the city that provides a variety of services to homeless and low-income New Yorkers affected by HIV/AIDs. Residents can donate clothing at a collection bin placed in a common area of the building. Mager says more than 142,000 multifamily homes are enrolled in this program.

“If possible, the collected material is sold in Housing Works stores,” she says. “If the material is not wearable, it goes for recycling or could be exported.”

Organics, such as food scraps, spoiled food, food-soiled paper and yard trimmings and plants, comprise more than one-third of the waste collected by DSNY. Through NYC Organics, multifamily buildings with more than 10 units can divert these materials for composting. Mager says nearly 40,000 multifamily residences are enrolled in the organics program.

Material collected from Staten Island residents is processed at that borough’s city-owned compost facility. The city also owns a facility for tree and yard waste in the Bronx. Material collected from other boroughs is transported to private vendors for processing.

She says e-cycleNYC, re-fashioNYC and NYC Organics have recycled 10 million pounds of materials since they began. “Programs such as these will be instrumental in helping us reach our zero waste goals,” Mager says.

The sunny side of recycling

On the opposite side of the country, Los Angeles serves approximately 400,000 apartments and condominiums within the city’s limits. According to LA Sanitation Multifamily Recycling Program Manager Michelle Mikesell, commingled recyclables are collected in 96-gallon blue bins.

The city collects paper, plastics Nos. 1-7, cartons, metals and glass, which are sent to several different MRFs for processing.

“Some of the haulers own their own processing facilities,” Mikesell says. “Other haulers who don’t own their own facilities contract with different processors based on the facility’s daily capacity and where their routes are.”

In terms of participation, Mikesell says the city ensures fairly level rates through education, but seasonal fluctuations are common.

To educate property owners or managers and residents, LA Sanitation uses materials such as flyers, informational signs and posters on what is accepted for recycling and how to handle certain materials.

Mikesell says, “Generally, we see an increase in recycling when we are doing an outreach campaign because people are being reminded that recycling is important and we are educating them on what they can recycle.”

Because LA currently has an open market for waste and recycling services, property managers and residents can be confused regarding their service providers. “Any hauler, as long as it is permitted by the city, can pick up trash and recycling at any business or multifamily property,” she says.

To combat this confusion, the city is implementing a zero waste franchise system that assigns a single hauler for commercial and multifamily residences in one or more of 11 zones designated by the city. Under this franchise system, recycling will be mandatory for every business and multifamily property. Mikesell says this system will launch July 1, 2017, and will aid in the city’s zero waste goal of 90 percent diversion by 2025.

The author is assistant editor of the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at