When Should Dallas Require Apartments to Recycle? There's Still Some Debate About That.

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When city staff first unveiled their vision to transform Dallas into a "zero waste" city by 2040, there was immediate pushback. No one quibbled with the goal of waste reduction, but pretty much everyone quibbled with the way the city should get there.

Environmentalists critiqued the plan for putting off progressive-sounding measures like mandatory recycling and a plastic bag ban for decades hence and for including "advanced waste diversion," which is a fancy way of saying they're going to set it on fire. Business interests were reluctant to embrace a proposed requirement that they provide recycling.

And so, the City Council's Transportation & Environment Committee punted a decision on the Local Solid Waste Management Plan while soliciting comments at a series of public meetings.

What the city learned was that there are things that everybody agrees on. All parties are on board with increased marketing and community outreach, producer responsibility legislation (i.e. making companies offer take-back programs) and curbside composting.

There remains, however, a major sticking point: mandatory recycling at apartments. This matters because half of Dallas' population lives in apartments, according to census figures, and none of them is provided a blue recycling bin. It's something any serious effort at reducing garbage will have to tackle.

The city plans on doing just that; the question is when. The original plan was for the City Council to consider an ordinance in 2021. The revised proposal moves that up two years, to 2019. Until then, the city will set goals, but meeting them will be voluntary.

In a letter to council members, Texas Campaign for the Environment's Zac Trahan called the faster timetable an improvement, but wrote "it still concerns us."

"If we start considering our policy 5 years from now, it may take a year to adopt an ordinance and several more years to fully implement it," he wrote. "That means it could still be 8-9 years before we have a city-wide policy in place for all commercial buildings. That seems too far away."

Trahan suggests speeding things up by another three years.

Business interests, notably the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, prefer the voluntary approach. As it stands, there's not even a measure of how much material is being recycled at apartments and commercial buildings, a data gap it has agreed to help remedy by the end of the year.

"We suspect that maybe we're a little farther along than we realize," Kathy Carlton, AAGD's director of governmental affairs told the council this morning.

Maybe a few higher-end complexes offer recycling but -- and I have this on good authority -- those that a journalist can afford do not and probably won't until they're forced to.

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If you want an easy way to recycle in an apartment -- take the initiative yourself and check out the Solecan.  Born in Dallas, hopefully this will keep a lot of recyclables out of landfills.  It is available for pre-order on Kickstarter at http://kck.st/YUTM0H


Dumb sheep 

If you think you are recycling to save the planet your missing the entire point. That is millions of empty containers returning to SE Asia, aka a free ride to sell our garbage for a healthy profit. The green movement is just another marketing scheme to manipulate the masses, the best part is it gets all those especially against the things it is specifically working for  

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

In-town buildings are the most difficult places to recycle.  Usually there is only one chute per floor.  They'd have to add at least two more chutes, probably at a prohibitive cost.  Newly constructed multi-family dwellings should get a break from the city for having three chutes per floor.


As a maintenance manager, up here in the pacific northwest. Residents will dump garbage into the recycle bin. Landscapers will dump grass clippings into it as well. I finally convinced the property manager to have the bins removed, was costing too mush money


I would not say that all apartments do not recycle. Some smaller, older buildings have access issues that prevent commercial trucks from dropping dumpsters on site. The only option is to use the same cans as residential customers. For example, a 6-unit, 5000 square foot building would have 6 regular and 6 recycle cans.


Houston has made the Bloomberg Mayor's Challenge short list using something called "One Bin for All."  How do they get it and we don't?  If we could all use just one garbage can and someone sorts it, doesn't that solve the entire problem for everyone?  I don't know what the cost issues might be, but again, how does Houston get it and we don't?


@GMit Methane from organics is a fuel and when kept is not a greenhouse gas.  Have you heard about carbon credits?  Metals are recycled here in the US for big $'s.  Plastics can be converted to oil.  Ewaste circuit boards can be mined for rare earth metals no longer exported from the far east. The list goes on.  It's a huge and expanding market because the trash is full of value.  There's no such thing as garbage anymore! 


@Lemurskin I agree.  I live in one of those kinds of apartment complexes.  It's a pain in the rear for the garbage truck to get in and empty the trash dumpster.  As much as I would LOVE a recycling dumpster there is just no place for one in my complex.  But my landlord has said yes to past tenants asking for the curbside recycling bin.  I think there may have been a problem with figuring out where it would go and how it would be picked up by the city that deterred my friend getting one in the end, though.

TheCredibleHulk topcommenter


Well, I've lived in the Dallas area for about a decade, now, and there is one thing that I have learned above all else: If it's good enough for Houston, there's no friggin' way that Dallas will ever have anything to do with it.

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