The pandemic has put pressure on Waste Management’s recycling program because we are disposing of more waste at home than ever before. Here are some ways you can help fix the problem. (Waste Management)

The pandemic has put pressure on Waste Management’s recycling program because we are disposing of more waste at home than ever before. Here are some ways you can help fix the problem. (Waste Management)

How to fix the COVID recycling mess at apartments and condos

Waste Management shares best practices to help get your multifamily recycle system back on track.

  • Friday, October 23, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

By Karissa Jones / Waste Management

Multifamily living presents unique challenges when it comes to recycling. Add a pandemic into the mix, and it can feel overwhelming to keep the shared system organized.

As an apartment resident myself, I know firsthand the frustration of taking the time to clean and carefully sort recyclables, only to find dirty, non-recyclable materials put in the shared container by a neighbor. COVID lifestyle changes have put even more pressure on the system, with the community disposing of more waste at home than ever before.

The good news is Waste Management’s outreach team has developed best practices and digital education tools to help get multifamily recycling back on track.

Break down boxes. More online ordering with contact-free delivery means more cardboard boxes in the recycling. These can fill up recycling containers quickly. Lead by example by breaking down your boxes to ensure there is space for your neighbors’ recycling. Check with your property manager about sharing this reminder by posting signs at waste enclosures and in other common areas such as elevators and mail rooms.

Educate neighbors virtually. Waste Management’s award-winning outreach team has developed educational resources via Waste Management eConnect that can be accessed from the safety of your apartment or condo. Find videos, digital recycling guides, and a virtual scavenger hunt at www.wmnorthwest.com and share with neighbors through an email blast, eNewsletter or online portal.

For example, our “Recycle 101”videocovers the basics of recycling, including keeping recyclables free of plastic bags. Another video on “COVID-19 Recycling and Disposal Tips” helps you figure out what to do with COVID masks, plastic gloves and cleaning product bottles.

Increase your service. More people at home means more garbage and recyclables. Consider increasing your service subscription. Between online school and new work-from-home environments, people are spending more time at home. This means waste that used to be disposed of in the cafeteria or break room is now filling up your property’s dumpsters.

Right-sizing service eliminates unsightly overflowing containers, allows space for everybody to recycle, and discourages cross-contamination of garbage and recyclables. Talk to your property manager or HOA about contacting Waste Management at 1-800-592-9995 to update service levels to fit the needs of your community’s new lifestyle.

Troubleshoot problems. Volunteer to champion the recycling program. A champion is a resident passionate about maintaining a strong recycling program at their complex. They serve as the eyes and ears for recycling right. This person closely communicates with the property manager on insights such as types of non-recyclable items frequently ending up in the recycling. This partnership allows your neighbors to receive timely and specific feedback to improve recycling habits. Many property managers and HOAs are looking for champions right now. It’s a great time to raise your hand!

Start composting. With more people cooking at home, consider talking to your property manager about adding food scrap compost collection at your multifamily community. Not sure whether it’s available at your complex? Visit www.wmnorthwest.com or call 1-800-592-9995.

As we face this “new normal” head-on, it is important to hold onto recycling as a community value to help us live more sustainably. By connecting with neighbors and property managers on solutions to refresh recycling programs, we can ensure recycling right at home remains a constant through these turbulent times.

Karissa Jones is a senior associate on Waste Management’s education and outreach team, as well as and a board member of the Washington State Recycling Association.

Talk to us

More in Life

Red osier dogwood  (Cornus sericea (stolonifera)) berries, leaves and twigs.
Red twig dogwoods — there’s variety of shrub for all seasons

Here are four new varieties of twig dogwoods on the market that provide fall and winter interest.

Josey Wise puts out one of the hundreds of glass pumpkins on a display at the Schack Art Center for the upcoming Schack-toberfest on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 in Everett, Washington. The festival runs from Sept, 23 to Nov. 6. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Glowing gourds light up Schack-toberfest in Everett this fall

You can see more than 1,000 of the glass pumpkins, and even make your own. Plus, check out The Artists’ Garage Sale on Sept. 25.

Plant "Mount Vernon" as a low informal bed border or small hedge, or as a groundcover under trees and large shrubs.(Rick Peterson)
Great Plant Pick: Prunus laurocerasus ‘Mount Vernon,’ dwarf English laurel

Plant “Mount Vernon” as a low informal bed border or small hedge, or as a groundcover under trees and large shrubs.

This rare Louisiana Creole Gros Rouge punkah from the late 18th-early 19th century made of Southern Yellow Pine with mortise-and-tenon construction, 40 1/2 by 35 inches, was estimated to sell for $10,000 to $15,000 at Neal Auctions, but it didn't sell. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
Strange antique made from Southern yellow pine is a punkah

It was the “air conditioner” of the early 19th century. A man called a “punkah wallah” pulled a cord to make it swing back and forth like a fan.

Nick Pate examines a cider apple tree at Raising Cane Ranch in Snohomish in 2019. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Nick Pate examines a cider apple tree at Raising Cane Ranch in Snohomish on June 5, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Home and garden events and resources around Snohomish County

Home and garden events and resources around Snohomish County

David Pallett, 77, works out with personal trainer Jim Hart on Aug. 30 at Optimal Sport Gym in Philadelphia. (Jose F. Moreno / The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Experts: Don’t put off exercising until retirement years

It’s never too late to start moving, but science is finding you may not catch up to lifelong exercisers.

If your diarrhea doesn’t resolved itself within a month, then it has turned into persistent or even chronic diarrhea. (Getty Images)
Does persisent diarrhea keep you running to the toilet?

Then it’s time to ask your doctor to test for infections, allergies and autoimmune diseases to find the root cause.

Welcome fall with Quil Ceda Creek Casino’s Asian chicken salad with a vegetable medley. (Quil Ceda Creek Casino)
Taste of Tulalip: Asian chicken salad with vegetable medley

Set the stage for fall with a Quil Ceda Creek Casino favorite featuring a kaleidoscope of colorful ingredients.

The Dmitri Matheny Group, led by horn player Dmitri Matheny, is scheduled to perform Oct. 9 at Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish. (Steve Korn)
All about music: Schedule of concerts around Snohomish County

The listings include Sir Mix-a-Lot, ZZ Top and Bands, Brews and Bowling at Evergreen Lanes in Everett.

Most Read