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Waste & Recycling

February 11, 2022

Multi-family Recycling: Is It Important For Calgary?

The time has come yet again. Time to take the mixed recycling and garbage out before it overflows and swallows up your apartment. Going to your complex’s disposal room means going outside, so you’ve really been pushing the limits lately because, well… it’s winter in Calgary. Enough said.

Separating your recycling, garbage, and compost has left you with 4 bags to carry. Oh, and don’t forget about the stack of broken-down cardboard boxes from all those online orders! Staring at the pile in front of you, you know it’s too much for two hands. But c’mon, two trips?! Yeah right. You’re up for the challenge. You’ve done it before and you’ll do it again. You load up and start your journey, dropping things along the way. You need to stop and regroup a few times, but you’ve got this. 

One long elevator ride, ten numb fingers, and two sticky feet later, you’ve finally arrived at your destination. You hurl your bags into the appropriate receptacles and you’re on your way. What an adventure! As you’re walking out the door, you look back over your shoulder and think to yourself, “until next time…”.

If you’ve ever lived in a multi-family dwelling then you can probably relate to this trash-taking-out experience. Chances are, it’s not at all your favourite trip to take, but it is an oh-so-important one. Why? We’ll get there, but first…

What Is A Multi-family Dwelling? 

In regards to housing, multi-family refers to separate residential units that are contained within one building or complex. The City of Calgary defines a multi-family dwelling as “five or more units on the same parcel of land. This includes high-rise and low-rise apartments, townhouses, condos, mobile home parks, housing co-operatives and housing developments on private roads”. There are literally THOUSANDS of multi-family homes in Calgary, and that number is only estimated to grow by thousands more in the coming years. According to a 2012 waste generation study by The Conference Board of Canada, “Canada generates 720 kg of waste per capita” on average, with Alberta among the highest generating provinces at 1,007 kg! To put that into perspective Albertans, 1,000 kilograms is about the equivalent of two adult male grizzly bears. Now that’s a lot of waste for one person! Multiply that by the number of people in any given multi-family residence and that’s even more waste/grizzly bears. It’s no wonder why multi-family recycling is so crucial in Calgary! 

Can Multi-family Recycling Be Challenging?

The short answer is yes. With an abundance of people being housed in one location, multi-family recycling can pose some unique challenges. 

Infrastructure

Oftentimes, multi-family recycling efforts require more than just a few bins. Dwellings such as apartments and condominiums need full disposal areas in order to support the volume of waste produced by all its inhabitants. The disposal area must be convenient for the residents and large enough so that it does not exceed capacity between collections. 

Resident Turnover

With a large percentage of multi-family homes being rental properties, resident turnover is typically higher in these dwellings than in single-family homes. Apart from not knowing where the disposal area is, new tenants will not be familiar with the building’s recycling program. Residents should be oriented on their complex’s recycling program upon moving in so they have the tools to be successful once they settle.

Communication

Communication is key in multi-family dwellings. A poorly communicated disposal area is a recipe for complete confusion which can lead to a total disaster. Successful disposal areas display clear, concise signage, and bins are organized and labeled appropriately. It is the building’s responsibility to ensure that residents find the process of recycling easy and encouraging. 

Stakeholders

Relative to other types of residences, multi-family dwellings have a lot of parties involved. For example, a condominium is likely made up of tenants, building managers, property owners, a condo board, etc. Given the high number of decision-makers, it can sometimes take longer for recycling programs to be implemented. 

I’m A Multi-family Resident. What Can I Do To Help?

Thanks for asking! Fortunately, multi-family recycling became mandatory in Calgary on February 1, 2016, so there is a lot you can do to help. Hip hip hooray! Like so many things, a bunch of small acts can make a big difference. Here are some tiny actions that can change the multi-family recycling game!

  • Do you know what goes in your blue recycling cart? How about your green organics cart? Are you sure that you are disposing of your garbage properly? Understanding exactly what goes where is crucial if you want to be a recycling champ, especially on a large scale. Keep your eyes out for signage or check out our blogs linked above for some helpful tips and tricks!
  • Did you know that uncleaned recycling is considered contaminated and thus is not acceptable? AND, if enough recyclables are labeled as contaminated during the sorting process, then the whole load could be deemed unusable and go to the landfill - yikes! Defeats the whole purpose doesn’t it? A quick rinse of items like jars, cans, and bottles can make a massive difference by ensuring those contamination levels stay low. 
  • Struggling to figure out where something goes? Don’t just guess! Ask your property manager or waste hauler how to correctly dispose of something that you are unsure about. You can also use the BluPlanet Recycling What Goes Where page to assist if you have BluPlanet as your waste hauling provider.
  • Make sure you know what recyclables should go into the bin loose vs. bagged. (Pro tip: shredded paper and plastic bags are really the only things that need to be bagged!)
  • Ensure that large personal items (i.e. furniture pieces, etc) are not brought to the disposal area. These items take up a lot of space which can lead to waste overflow. It also holds up your friendly neighborhood waste haulers. Calgary has so many incredible charities that are always looking for support, so try donating instead! 

With the continued upward trajectory of multi-family home developments in Calgary, multi-family recycling is more important than ever. Let’s all do our part! 

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