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Many big apartment complexes in Lansing don't offer recycling. Some in the city want to change that.

Recycling truck in Lansing picking up CARTs
Posted at 9:43 PM, Oct 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 11:39:19-04

LANSING, Mich. — Lansing collects recyclable materials at single-family homes and some businesses but not at many of the city's largest apartment complexes.

"That's something that if we're able to implement would be something that would benefit the community," said Andy Kilpatrick, director of public service for the city.

And some city officials think it should be a priority. This year one of the recommendations the Board of Public Service sent to the City Council was to increase recycling at apartment complexes and businesses.

Is it feasible to make recycling more accessible to thousands of apartment dwellers in the city?

Recycle sign on the side of a CART truck

"I don't believe that most apartment complexes in Lansing or frankly, in the state have recycling or make those services available to their residents. They do cost, those services, just like waste services cost. But you can reduce your waste costs by offering recycling services," said Kerrin O'Brien, executive director of the Michigan recycling coalition.

Lori Welch, sustainability manager for the city of Lansing says they have recognized for a long time that serving all residents includes apartment complexes and people who don't live in single-family homes.

"We've just not been able to, to increase those services as much as we'd like to," Welch said.

She says there are barriers including limited staff, limited trucks, equipment and other resources.

Recycling CART sitting on the curb in Lansing
Recycling CART sitting on the curb in Lansing

"And then the collection containers that we have are 96-gallon rollout carts. So if an apartment complex or a business can utilize a cart and have collection services where our trucks and equipment can get in and out of the property and service them, we typically are able to put them on a collection route and do that," Welch said.

But, in many cases, apartment complexes have limited space and might not have enough room for multiple curb carts to be set out and picked up easily, she said.

"If we're starting to expand to buildings and facilities that we can't use our cart program, we would have to use dumpsters, and currently, the city does not have the equipment to pick those up. So we would really either have to invest in more trucks and dumpsters or we would have to partner with a company that's currently doing that," Kilpatrick said.

And then they would need to add additional staff to be able to operate the trucks and equipment.

"So those are some of the barriers and it's working with apartment property owners and managers to get them signed up and subscribe to the services and that kind of thing too," Welch said.

They would also have to have to educate residents to make sure they have a clean recycling stream at these locations.

"Lansing has an interesting mix of private sectors providing services and public sectors providing services. So you'll see the city of Lansing trucks down the road, collecting recyclables and garbage. But you'll also see waste management's in granger's trucks on the road providing those services. So really, apartment complexes have access to those services right now," O'Brien said.

She says if the city were to provide services to more businesses and apartment complexes it would make it more cost-efficient or effective.

Staff member on his recycling route
Staff member on his recycling route

"But it would mostly make it the cost more affordable to those apartment complexes," O'Brien said. "Michigan has about an 18 percent recycling rate right now. But we can really recycle much more of our solid waste than that. But we only get to those higher numbers by providing services universally to everybody we can."

The Gillespie Group is a property management group based in Lansing. They offer recycling at most of their Lansing properties through a private provider, but said they'd be interested in seeing what the city could offer.

"Recycling is a great service that people really ask about and if the city of Lansing can provide that service to our residence we're excited to learn about it," Charette said.

Valerie Marchand, a spokeswoman for Mayor Andy Schor declined to say whether or not recycling at apartment complexes would be a priority for the mayor in the coming year, offering only that, “the mayor will review all of City Council’s recommendations as he does every year, and present his budget proposal in spring of 2022."

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Tianna Jenkins

12:23 PM, Jan 12, 2021

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Tianna Jenkins

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