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Trading residential trash for cash.

It has been 20 years since the nation's environmental consciousness was first raised by an event called Earth Day. Now two decades later, environmental issues are again receiving extensive interest - none more than a word that was once so strange it seemed awkward to pronounce: "recycling"

Today, the word is on everyone's lips. But the question remains, why should the property manager, with all the myriad of things he or she has to do, bother about recycling? The answer is that recycling can have a positive effect on the environment, on the image of the property, and on the financial bottom line. Two case studies of apartment recycling programs demonstrate the financial and marketing benefits of this worthwhile effort.

Project 1: Conterbury Green

Canterbury Green, located in Fort Wayne, is one of Indiands largest apartment communities, with 2,002 apartments and over 5,000 residents. The property's recycling program was initiated in 1989 to cut down on the visible discarded trash. Proceeds were to be donated to charity.

The initial program began with an advertisement in the community newsletter, The Canterbury Tales, inviting residents to recycle aluminum cans in a homemade container located at the clubhouse. The container, painted to look like a giant soda can, was a gimmick, but it worked. Soon $40 a week was being donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. A broader, more formal program was instituted.

In phase two of Canterbury's recycling efforts, recycling was extended to include old newspapers as well as aluminum. A recycling company was located, and pickups were expanded from monthly to weekly. To attract even greater resident support, management created a full-fledged advertising flyer explaining the value of recycling and how to participate.

One year later, 35 to 40 percent of Canterbury residents are participating in the program. In addition, people outside the community have become aware of the project and have begun bringing recyclables to the property on Saturdays.

Canterbury now collects eight recyclables: aluminum cans, clear glass, brown glass, green glass, newspaper, plastic, styrofoam, and steel cans. These are coflected in eight separate two-yard, roll-off dumpsters in a specially designated recycling area and picked up one or twice a week. Recently a compost operation has been organized for collecting organic matter. The end product will be offered to residents for next spring's flower beds.

The initial costs of the program, approximately $2,000, have been completely financed by the company, with the proceeds donated to a variety of charitable organizations. However, the solid waste disposal costs for the property dropped from $4,076 per month to $1,600, saving the company much more than the cost of the program. In addition, the residents and the management company enjoy the benefits of making a positive contribution to the enviromnent.

Project 2: Sunblest Apartments

Centralized conection of recyclables and high resident participation quickly built a strong recycling effort at Canterbury However, recycling can be a cost-effective program at most types of properties.

At Sunblest Apartments, an upscale community in Fishers, Indiana (outside of Indianapolis), recycling efforts faced both logistical and demographic challenges. But they are succeeding.

Sunblest's resident mix consisted of 70 percent in the 25-to-55 with no dependents, a group made up mostly of young professionals not apt to go out of their way to recycle. In addition, the apartment's marketing stressed individuality and privacy, with individual entrances and washer-dyrers in each unit.

The logistics of Sunblest also presented an obstacle. The property's 608 units were spread across 80 acres, with the very low density making centralized efforts more difficult

The solution was to bring recycling to the residents, not ask them to bring it to the property. Thirty-two dumpster areas, located along the same paths as current refuse disposal areas, were each equipped as mini-recycling areas.

A centrally located main recycling container was placed in the community, and property staff transferred newspapers, cans, and glass to the main center three times a week.

The initial cost of setting up the 32 minicenters was approximately $2,600, with about $50 weekly in labor spent to collect the recyclables and bring them to main center. The hauler supplied the main center at no cost to the property. And because Sunblest reduced its monthly trash bill from $2,100 to $1,600 a month, the payback for the project was quickly realized.

However, the greatest benefit of Sunblest's recycling program was not any monetary reward, but the public relations value. At no cost to themselves, Sunblest residents are able to conveniently contribute to the environment and the community. Approximately 20 percent of the proceeds from the recycling are returned to the community and in turn donated to local hospitals, little leagues, and charities.

In the four months of the recycling program, Sunblest has been featured on local TV news programs, radio talk shows, and newspaper articles. One major newspaper article was worth an estimated $1,800 if the community had bought the space for an ad. As the program grows, even more positive results can be expected.


The fact that waste management has become a principal focus of our national consciousness offers hope for our future. Apartments, as well as commercial buildings and shopping centers, can important contribution to solid waste management through recycling. Asset managers must lead the way to make recycling truly work. We owe it to ours residents, to our owners, to our communities, and to the planet.

Robert Murray, CPM(R), is vice president of fee management for Northill Development Corp. in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is responsible for one of the nation's largest conventionally including a fee-managed golf course, a restaurant, and a country club. Mr. Murray is president of the Apartment Association of Fort Wayne and Northeastern Indiana and a member of the board of directors for the Indiana State Apartment Association. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and holds an M.B.A. degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Dennis Wilson, CPM(R), is a regional property manager with Regency Windsor Company of Vero Beach, Florida. The company is a full-service real estate firm specializing in multi-family properties. Mr. Wilson has 18 years of experience in property management, with both residential and commercial properties.
COPYRIGHT 1991 National Association of Realtors
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Murray, Robert; Wilson, Dennis
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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