City leaders say they don’t want to force residents to recycle, but they hope to do more to encourage those who live in apartment complexes and condominiums to save items from the landfill.
City Council members on Tuesday said they want to buy more educational materials about recycling to hand out at residential buildings. They also suggested replacing more recycling carts with recycling dumpsters and training property managers to build a culture of recycling at apartment buildings.
In a separate but related move, the council said it wants to change city codes to allow a private business to pick up and recycle clothing and other textiles that residents place at the curb. The company, which would be selected at a later date, would operate along the same pickup routes as the garbage and recycling trucks.
The council didn’t vote to enact either change immediately, but it instructed City Manager Ruffin Hall to include the extra recycling materials and dumpsters in his budget for the next fiscal year, which Hall will draft in the spring and the council will likely vote on in June.
Raleigh’s Waste Reduction Task Force suggested to the council in April that the city start the process of requiring residents to recycle. Mayor Nancy McFarlane said at the time that she and others on the council “have a little heartburn with the word mandatory.”
Some council members also said they were surprised that some apartment and condo buildings in Raleigh don’t offer recycling opportunities at all.
Of the 618 apartment and condo projects in the city, 533 currently offer residents the opportunity to recycle, according to the task force.
So the council turned its focus to multi-family residential buildings.
“Recycling collection isn’t as convenient for apartment residents because they have to carry their materials to a common location, although some higher-end complexes are making it easier by providing valet service to each unit,” said Bianca Howard, the city’s environmental coordinator.
“Apartment residents also tend to be more transient, which means we need to provide recycling education more frequently to keep up with the turnover in the population,” Howard added.
Council members Kay Crowder and Dickie Thompson said focusing on multi-family buildings is a good first step. But councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said she doesn’t think the city’s efforts are aggressive enough.
“I don’t think it’ll make that much of a difference,” Baldwin said of the plan for more materials and training. “I feel like we’re taking a baby step, and I’d like to take a giant step.”
Some cities, including Austin, Minneapolis, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle, offer commercial recycling services or penalize residents and businesses that don’t recycle.
In North Carolina, state law prohibits aluminum cans and plastic bottles from being sent to the landfill, Howard said.
“Logically, you might say that means they’re going to recycling, but that’s not the case,” she said.
Raleigh in 2014 diverted 36 percent of recyclable materials from the landfill to the recycling plant, according to the task force. That figure was the highest on record for the city. But the task force said the city should try to divert 50 percent of its waste from the landfill by 2020.
It found that Raleigh households are throwing away lots of materials that could be recycled. Of the trash collected, 39 percent is recyclable and 24 percent is compostable, the task force reported.
The city has had problems making recycling available at apartments that cater to very low-income residents, Howard said.
Wake County will celebrate Recycling Day on Saturday. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., residents can dispose of electronics, batteries, paint, chemicals and other recyclable items for free at the North Wake Multi-Material Recycling Facility at 9029 Deponie Drive, Raleigh. Residents can also bring up to three file boxes of sensitive documents to a drive-through shredding event at the facility. For more information, go to wakegov.com/recycling.