Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Recycling bottles, paper and cans is about to get easier at more than 200,000 homes in unincorporated Clark County as they transition from separate red, white and blue bins to a single recycling cart over the next several years.
The move, which was approved last month by the Clark County Commission after years of study, is part of the growing push to improve the region’s low recycling rates, about 27 percent of all waste in 2012. Henderson and North Las Vegas already have switched their residents to the single-stream program in hopes that the simplicity and convenience will boost recycling.
But for those who live in apartments or condominiums throughout the Las Vegas Valley, finding an easy way to dispose of recyclables can be a challenge.
Apartment dwellers tend to produce less trash than their counterparts living in single-family homes, but with more than 300,000 people living in apartments across Southern Nevada, the opportunity exists to significantly improve the amount of waste the region recycles.
However, several issues, most importantly cost and space constraints, have prevented widespread adoption of recycling programs among local apartments.
Republic Services, the valley’s waste-collection franchisee, launched its apartment-oriented recycling program in 2010, but so far only about 20 percent of the roughly 750 eligible apartment complexes have signed up.
“Going into 2014, we’re starting to make a push to educate property managers. Some are still not aware that we offer the service,” said Len Christopher, general manager at Republic Services. “It’s an add-on to their standard trash service, and anybody qualifies. It’s single stream, so you can put everything in there – paper, plastic, cans, junk mail – and we pick those up by front-loader.”
The program generally comes with a large bin to be placed in the parking lot for residents to drop off their recyclables, with additional smaller bins available for mail rooms, laundry rooms and other common areas. Republic also provides educational materials and signs for the complex and its residents.
Recycling isn’t bundled with the trash bill for apartment complexes, as it is for single-family homes, meaning owners who want to offer recycling to their tenants must pay extra.
Although the extra fee generally comes out to less than $1 per resident per month, the added costs can be a challenge for apartments already operating on thin margins.
“The problem that a lot of people don’t understand is if you increase costs to apartment communities, indirectly those costs get passed back down to the residents,” said Mark Fazio, executive director of the Nevada State Apartment Association, which represents apartment owners and property managers. “Let’s say they’re charging you $100 per month, which is $1,200 per year, which could mean you can’t give unit 1A new carpet for the next tenant.”
Finding a place to position the large recycling bins, which can measure up to 24 feet across, is also a challenge and in some cases would require apartments to get rid of parking spaces or build costly enclosures for the bins.
“The apartment association can’t speak for everybody, but a lot of our members like the idea of recycling; they’re excited about it. They know it’s a good thing for everybody involved,” said Eric Newmark, the association’s general counsel. “The only problem is can the apartments make the needed space? A lot of these apartment communities are a little bit older. They’re already set up with where the buildings are on the property and whatnot.”
Newmark said he would expect the state or local government to eventually pass a law requiring recycling to be offered at all apartments and condominiums. The key, he said, will be making any mandatory recycling program cost effective and flexible enough to fit the variety of apartment communities in Las Vegas.
Ultimately, more apartment complexes will start recycling when tenants demand it, Fazio said.
“Landlords are in the business of making tenants happy,” he said. “They provide a housing service, and if the tenants want recycling, the tenants are going to get it.”
Camden Property Trust was one of the first major apartment companies to sign on with Republic Services when the recycling program launched in 2010, largely due to demand from tenants, regional manager Janice Richards said.
The company provides large recycling bins outside of its 15 complexes, which total about 5,000 units, with smaller bins in the mail rooms.
“We want residents to have options that make it feel like home,” Richards said. “If we can provide an amenity that makes them feel like it’s a home that also gives back to the community, we’re willing to take on the minor cost to give residents that opportunity.”