Blake Herzog, Tribune
Recycling demand is growing at the supply and demand ends of the chain, with consumer interest reaching new highs and the prices being offered for used paper, plastic and aluminum going up as well.
The curbside recyclable pickup offered throughout the East Valley undoubtedly helps this along, but those who don’t live on a curb - such as in an apartment or condominium complex - tend to have a harder time getting on board.
When residents of multifamily communities do get that option, the results can be impressive.
Gene Purkhiser, president of the homeowners association at the Mission de los Arroyos condo community at 92nd and Cholla streets in Scottsdale, said that has been the case in his experience.
“The recycling bins we have keep filling up, and so they keep adding and adding them, and those fill up - even in the offseason,” he said. “Now we’ve added all the bins that we’re going to be able to.”
It’s gotten to the point where they have to chase away residents of nearby complexes, lest they take up too much space in the seven blue bins.
Setting up recycling bins to serve multiple households is trickier than it might seem, because when the bins are “contaminated” by nonrecyclable items, it’s generally difficult to know who the culprit is.
But East Valley cities are reaching out to multifamily communities in efforts to recover their reusable trash, which can pay off - as much as $45 a ton.
Chandler does not provide any kind of trash service to apartment or condo complexes with more than three units or any other establishment it considers a commercial enterprise, but the city does encourage those who live in complexes to use the 16 recycling drop-off locations set up throughout the city, said Sheree Sepulveda, environmental education programs coordinator.
Overall, she said she enjoys the fact that interest in recycling is running high across the community. “It’s not just crunchy granola people anymore,” she joked.
Scottsdale offers a recycling option to complexes that get commercial trash service from the city, and 36 complexes currently participate, said Rick Pence, the city’s solid waste management director. People who live in communities that don’t can use one of the city’s 12 drop-off sites.
The locations of those 12 aren’t widely publicized, Pence said, for the same reason that common-area recycling bins often don’t work. “Once a drop-off spot becomes well-known, we get a lot of customers who bring in their trash, and we get so much contamination we have to yank it,” he said. “If it’s at a fire station, it tends to work better because there are always people there, or a police station.”
The list of drop-off points is available by phone or e-mail to anyone, he said.
Tempe began offering recycling services to businesses in January, said John Osgood, deputy public works manager for field operations; commercial recycling was previously restricted to cardboard materials. Eight multifamily properties are signed up so far, and six more have applied for the service, he said.
He said education efforts through fliers and signs on the recycling bins indicating what can be recycled are effective at cutting down on the contamination issue at the large residential complexes.
Mesa spokesman Mariano Reyes said that Mesa serves multifamily properties “in a very limited level” but has also had difficulty with the wrong items ending up in the bins. Mesa provides two drop-off points for recyclables, at the Dobson Ranch library branch and the East Mesa Service Center near Power Road and University Drive.
Garin Groff, spokesman for Gilbert, said the town offers recycling to condo and apartment complexes as well as single-family residences, and the idea has caught on to the point where “people will bring paper from the office to the trash at home, because there’s such a big drive to recycle.”
Purkhiser, the Scottsdale condo HOA president, said it isn’t that hard to figure out who breaks the rules of recycling: “We’ll find some mail in a plastic bag, and we can go right up to them and say “hey, don’t do this.”