‘A recycling program for tenants’ does not mean bringing your old tenants back to rent again.
According to the EPA, some 75% of all solid waste could be recycled, but less than half that actually is. As Americans focus more and more on ‘greening’ their lives, recycling is turning into something that people are actively demanding (rather than grudgingly submitting to like it was 15 years ago.) Now clearly, this is largely a factor of your audience: if you’re dealing with a rental property next to a college and your target tenant is politically-active kids, you’re going to want to start a recycling program right away. If you’re running a Section 8 property and your target tenant is living at or below the poverty line, they might well not have the time or energy to worry about where the trash is going.
How can you know how interested your tenants are in a recycling program? Pretty simple: ask them. If you send out a monthly newsletter, attach a mailback card. If you have a community event, just get up in front of the crowd and ask. Failing both of those, have someone follow the mailman around and put a card in each person’s mailbox — or simply tape a paper to every door and ask them.
Start with a basic implementation: put recycling bins in your common areas, and encourage people to use them. If they turn out to be filling up quickly (once a week), you know that people are seriously interested. If they’re almost empty at the end of the month, you can probably pull the plug — sometimes people like to talk big, but they don’t follow through. If your results are middling, follow your instincts. (You don’t even actually have to have a recycling service at this time — spending a few dozen bucks on some cheap bins is a much better experiment than signing up for a month’s worth of recycling pickup only to learn you’re wasting your time.)
The Obvious Next Step
Set out recycling bins in your dumpster areas. Depending on your local recycling resources, you may need anywhere from two (cardboard and glass/aluminum) to several (paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, rubber, biodegradable/yard waste, possibly others.) Actually sign up for recycling pickup at this point. Congratulations! You’re officially recycling.
A good opportunity to start a recycling program is when you’re about to engage in a beautification program — and vice versa. The EPA claims that beautification programs are proven to lower the crime rate, improve the reputation of an area, and facilitate economic development. Any experienced property manager can tell you that it also improves morale and builds a feeling of camaraderie — especially if you can get the tenants engaged in the process by giving them something they can do (like recycling!)
Go Green and Go Home
If you’re going to start a recycling program, don’t stop with just recycling. Make it an opportunity to add other ‘green’ features to your property — especially ones that save you money! Even small, inexpensive changes that add to your buildings’ insulation values or improve electricity efficiency can save money for both you and your tenants. Even if such things aren’t in the budget, you can always offer incentives for your tenants to engage in these kinds of green-building improvements on their own. Some ‘green’ maintenance styles are even backed up by Federal and state tax incentives! It also makes for great advertising, again depending on your target tenant.