SLC apartment managers are required to provide recycling services, but are they?

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Officers from the Ministry of Environment examine a container full of non-recyclable plastic which was detained by authorities at the west port in Klang, Malaysia, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. Malaysia environment minister Yeo Bee Yin says Malaysia has become a dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste, and the country has begun sending non-recyclable plastic scrap to the developed countries of origin. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Did you know that some multi-family housing managers in Salt Lake City are required to provide recycling to tenants?

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As of January 2018, Salt Lake City changed its Solid Waste and Recycling Ordinance to include businesses and multi-family properties. This means that multi-family properties that produce over four cubic yards of waste every week must have a recycling program, according to Salt Lake City Sustainability. Four cubic yards is the amount of waste typically produced by a multi-family property with 15 or more units, according to slc.gov.

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The site states that businesses and multi-family properties create 50% of Salt Lake City’s waste but before the ordinance was changed, only about 10 to 15% was being recycled. Those in single-family homes must participate in curbside recycling and compost programs.

Salt Lake City has a goal to become zero waste by 2040. This means that all waste from the city is either recycled, reused, or composted, rather than ending up in a landfill.

“That’s still the basic goal, and this ordinance was created in part to try and help us achieve that,” says David Johnston, the Waste and Recycling Permits Coordinator of Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability. “Bringing in these larger apartment buildings, these larger businesses so that they are recycling is a huge part of that.”

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Salt Lake City residents who are not yet seeing recycling collection dumpsters available for their large apartments can move the process along.

“The ordinance is pretty new, so there are certainly apartments and businesses out there that are not in compliance with it, and we from the beginning have taken an education first approach to this. We want people to understand why recycling is important and the value that it can bring to a community,” Johnston says.

Tenants can fill out a Google form available on the Department of Sustainability’s website in which they can provide the name and address of their apartment for the department to reach out to. The department will not mention the tenant’s name in any communications with landlords.

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“We refer to them as complaints, but more often, we actually get tenants submitting these complaint forms being like “by the way, I love my landlord, but I’d also like to see recycling,” Johnston says. “It’s not always people up in arms about the fact that their community doesn’t offer recycling.”

The process is all anonymous, but Johnston says it is sometimes helpful for him to have a contact to double-check who is managing that property if management is difficult to reach.

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He says he will then reach out to the management of the property, saying that he heard from one of the tenants that the building doesn’t offer recycling. He will check to see how much waste the property is generating and from there can see if he needs to bring the building in compliance with the ordinance.

Once recycling is set up in the apartment, the Department of Sustainability will either have a site visit or have managers send photos of recycling bins or service agreements that prove the existence of a recycling program, Johnston says.

He says that when buildings set up recycling for the first time, the Department will ask how management is planning to let residents know what materials are accepted in the bins.

“Typically, one of the things that we encourage management to do is to include some sort of recycling agreement in the lease paperwork for new renters. This way, right from the get-go, renters know recycling is available in this building. These are the things I can put in the recycling bin,” Johnston says.

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(AP Photo/Vincent Thian, File)

This is a common practice that many apartment managers are doing already,” he told ABC4. Johnston says that when contacting management about the need to adopt a recycling program, the response is generally “pretty optimistic and understanding that this is a city ordinance. It’s something they need to be meeting.”

What can and can’t be recycled is primarily dictated by private haulers, which is very close to what Salt Lake City does, but not always identical, Johnston says. Salt Lake City does not provide the services itself.

“We require that apartments and businesses contract for recycling services with an authorized hauler, so another piece of this ordinance is bringing haulers into authorization with the city,” Johnston says.

The exact language of the ordinance is included here. Managers and owners can find information about setting up recycling services on their property at SLC Green. SLC.gov has additional information about the ordinance.

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