The Importance of Reducing and Reusing in an Apartment Community……
I remember the day that we decided to make a difference. It was, of course sparked by less than noble intentions like money, but nonetheless we saw an impact. I was working as a maintenance tech/porter for a pretty nice apartment community in a northern Dallas suburb. It was relentlessly hot that particular day and dancing heat waves carried the scent of rotting garbage from the lonely compactor. My team and I were doing the scheduled curb-side trash pickup when my coworker decided to load up his truck of all the broken washers, dryers, and scrap metal instead of forcing them inside the dumpster. On our lunch break we sold it and made enough money for a decent meal. And so it went for weeks as the residents of this small less-than-300 community continued to fill the trash area with opportunities to make a quick buck.
What We’ve Done
We started to cash in on a more lucrative metal once I mentioned the value of aluminium, so we started tearing open bags that had cans in them. Instantaneously our lunch fund doubled as we brought in as much as 80 lbs worth of dispensed beer and coke cans and could afford a lunch or two and water and Gatorade to relieve the summer burden. While we were well fed it was alarming to witness what was discarded on a daily basis. Once we’d tear open bags with cans we were presented with glass bottles, plastic cups, and everything else that could have easily been recycled. More than half of the compactor was recyclable goods, which could now be sitting for eternity at the growing landfill. This carried on for another 2 years while I was there. To this day the property has been in business for almost 15 years and only a small fraction of that saw us limiting what was sent to the consumer graveyard. Now imagine doubling the units of that community and placing one on every block. The amount of waste exponentially multiplies and we aren’t even counting houses.
The good news is that apartment communities can be a pivotal point in waste reduction. It’s estimated that there are about 115 million apartment communities in the U.S. compiling a rough 35% of the population (pulled from nationalmultihousingcouncil.org). While many municipalities have engaged their household neighborhoods in a recycling program such as providing separate bins for removal on a weekly basis, some are just now implementing the same program for residing multifamily communities.
What You Can Do
Change, however, is centered on the resident. Knowing the locations for local drop offs will help. Most recreation centers, schools, and government facilities have designated dumpsters for recyclable materials. Items such as boxes can be reused for future moves, presents, and organization as well as gift bags, paper shopping bags, and even crumbled tissue paper. Best Buy will also take almost any small defective appliance (common items found in the trash were broken toasters, coffee makers,irons, etc). Or pressuring property management to implement a recycling program can benefit the community. If management set out designated bins for cans, bottles, paper, and plastic, the profit alone from aluminum could support resident functions or new amenities (especially if everyone is on board).
From my ground level perspective, the issue involving waste is centered on indifference. It is our communal obligation to reduce, as nothing is ever thrown away but merely thrown to the side. Though the amount of waste is gathering at an alarming rate the foundation to reduction lies within the community. Small steps we take locally leads to strong strides across the country.