If you live in an apartment or a condominium in Dallas, you must have access to recycling. That’s the law, after Dallas City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to require all multi-family complexes to provide recycling by 2020.
Dallas is scrambling to catch up with the city of Fort Worth, which began mandating apartment recycling in 2014. Recycling advocates praised the decision and say they want to see similar recycling standards for businesses and development projects.
“Today’s decision is a result of years of powerful grassroots organizing in Dallas neighborhoods and apartment communities,” said Corey Troiani, local program director with Texas Campaign for the Environment. “Most of the apartment communities we visited lacked recycling programs, and thousands of residents were eager to help by writing letters and sending emails to city decision-makers.”
The ordinance requires all multi-family property owners to provide an on-site recycling program that includes education and accessibility for residents by January 1, 2020. It also requires that recycling companies that service these properties register with the city and report the amount of materials processed at recycling facilities.
City officials say this is one of several policy measures that is outlined in the city’s 2013 Zero Waste Plan, also known as the Local Solid Waste Management Plan 2011-2060. The plan aims to reduce waste generation and landfill disposal by up to 85 percent by 2040. Recent data shows that more than half of Dallas residents live in multi-family properties, and less than a quarter of those properties have recycling programs.
Diane Tasian, a Dallas condo resident and representative with the League of Women Voters Dallas Chapter, said she had to lobby her property managers to provide a convenient recycling program at The Warrington in Uptown.
“I think today’s decision is monumental for all Dallas residents. Whether you live in an apartment, condo or some other multi-family community, you should have the same basic services that are offered to the rest of Dallas residents,” Tasian said. “You shouldn’t have to fight for recycling where you live.”
Advocates with Texas Campaign for the Environment have sparred with the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas over the need for a policy mandate for years. Advocates say the trade association and city leaders previously resisted anything but voluntary compliance with multi-family recycling programs as far back as 2003.
Troiani said its members and supporters have written more than 12,000 letters to city officials on waste diversion programs. They have plans to continue organizing support for recycling and composting services in Dallas – including recycling programs for office buildings and other businesses, and changes to the city’s monthly bulk and brush program that would keep brush and leaves out of the landfill – later this year.
“We deeply appreciate the leadership of city officials who helped deliver this victory on multi-family recycling,” Troiani said. “This victory belongs to thousands of people who did their part to get this across the finish line.”
Dallas apartments and other multifamily dwellings must provide recycling for residents by January 2020 under new rules unanimously approved Wednesday by the Dallas City Council. The recycling expansion is the latest step toward the city’s goal of one day becoming a zero waste city.
“The city and various groups have been working toward our zero waste goals for years now and this action is going to move the needle considerably,” city council member Sandy Greyson said.
Around half the residents in Dallas live in multi-family buildings, but only around a quarter of those buildings offered recycling in the previous voluntary program.
Wednesday’s unanimous City Council vote pleased supporters of expanded recycling. They brought petitions in favor of the change.
“We’ve been working for the better part of three years knocking on doors in neighborhoods and apartments,” said Corey Troiani with Texas Campaign for the Environment.
Expanded recycling could add years to the life of the city landfill and save Dallas millions of dollars. The January 2020 effective date gives multifamily buildings time to prepare.
But commercial businesses generate around half the waste in Dallas and so far they have no recycling requirements. Greyson said rules for commercial recycling are coming soon.
Dallas apartment complexes with eight or more units will have to provide recycling for their residents by 2020.
The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the new recycling mandate, which is meant to help push Dallas toward its “zero-waste” goals and divert some materials from landfills. Council member Sandy Greyson said the new ordinance “is really going to move the needle considerably.”
The council was due to consider recycling mandates next year, according to its 2013 Zero Waste Plan. But the push came a year early after council members were told that voluntary compliance hadn’t resulted in much volunteering. Less than quarter of apartment complexes were offering recycling, and progress wasn’t fast enough, officials said.
The ordinance requires apartment complexes to provide capacity for 11 gallons of recycling a week for each unit. The method — dumpsters, roll carts, bins and compactors — is flexible. The minimum parking requirements can be reduced if the complexes need space to put the containers. Properties will have to submit an annual plan to the city’s Code Compliance Department.
Council member Lee Kleinman voted in favor of the ordinance but expressed reservations about it. He feared apartments would pass on the costs to residents and drive up the costs of housing.
“It’s just always very frustrating when you see the government mandate things for private businesses,” he said.
But other council members were all-in on the plan.
“We just can’t continue to fill our landfill up,” said Rickey Callahan, who represents Pleasant Grove.
Several praised the Texas Campaign for the Environment and the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas for their work on the ordinance.
Kathy Carlton, the government affairs director for the association, said the group was ready to embrace recycling.
“We are never in favor of a mandatory program,” she said. “That said, I knew that train was coming down the tracks.”
Carlton said she foresees some trouble with implementation for some properties, especially low-income ones, and hopes the city gives those apartments some leeway.
Corey Troiani, the Dallas-area program director for Texas Campaign for the Environment, said public education will be key. But he was thrilled with the vote and said the new rules will mean Dallas has “the most robust apartment recycling ordinance in the state of Texas.”
The council, which is also grappling with likely changes to brush-and-bulk-trash collection, will probably now turn its attention to recycling requirements for commercial uses.
Despite’s Austin’s “zero-waste” commitment, an advocacy group says that nearly every city park lacks recycling. We wondered about that declaration by the Texas Campaign for the Environment, which describes itself as the state’s largest environmental group organizing support through door-to-door canvassing.
An April 2018 handout from the group notes that the city adopted a zero-waste commitment in 2011 requiring businesses and landlords to provide recycling. The city has a goal of reducing trash sent to landfills by 90 percent by 2040.
“Unfortunately,” the TCE handout says, the “zero-waste” requirement “does not apply to city government operations” and parks rank among big missed opportunities. “As many as 293 out of 300 parks have no recycling, including almost every neighborhood park,” the handout says.
There’s also good news, the handout says, in that the city has launched recycling in every recreation and cultural center and in most of Austin’s biggest parks.
Still, 293 of 300 parks, including nearly every neighborhood park, have no recycling?
By email, Andrew Dobbs, the group’s Central Texas program director, said he based his statement on an April 2018 city staff presentation to Austin’s Parks and Recreation Board.
A slide in the presentation says the city has 300 parks. Two subsequent slides say a pilot program has introduced recycling to Zilker, Town Lake, Walnut Creek, Bull Creek and Ramsay parks plus Walsh Boat Landing. Other slides say recycling also has been added to more than five city swimming pools, five of six city golf courses and two softball complexes.
Dobbs told us the campaign knows of one other park with recycling bins thanks to a neighborhood association. The group’s handout, Dobbs said, says “as many as 293 out of 300” parks have no recycling “because we aren’t 100% certain if other parks might have recycling added on an ad hoc basis.”
Records show Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department made the recycling presentation to two city boards.
By phone, we separately confirmed TCE’s count of parks without recycling from Charles Vaclavik, a parks department official, who told us that plans are in motion next to expand recycling mostly along the south side of Lady Bird Lake through Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park.
Vaclavik said Austin’s parks-with-recycling count would be higher if the department had started its pilot recycling program in 2017 by concentrating on small neighborhood parks rather than installing recycling bins in large “metropolitan” parks the city’s jewel, 351-acre Zilker Park.
“We concentrated (instead) on the activity centers that have the most people,” Vaclavik said, seeking a “bigger bang for the buck.” To date, he said, the recycling pilot has diverted about 35 percent of materials previously destined to move from trash cans to a landfill.
Another factor: The city has yet to budget for recycling in its parks. Liana Kallivoka, the department’s assistant director, told the city’s Zero Waste Advisory Commission at its April 11, 2018, meeting that department officials were drafting a request for $250,000 in recycling-specific funding in the next city budget.
If approved by the Austin City Council, Kallivoka said, the money would fund a program coordinator and hundreds of pairs of waste-recycling receptacles with tops, which run $1,100 each, to follow on 150 pairs already installed in park facilities and outdoors. Shelley Parks, a city spokeswoman, told us by phone that the cost of the installed bins was covered largely by donors including the Austin Parks Foundation, the Trail Foundation, neighborhood associations and the office of City Council Member Alison Alter, who represents District 10.
Generally, Kallivoka told the commission, the department’s goal is to extend recycling to all parks and facilities in three phases wrapping up with the addition of recycling to neighborhood parks.
Commission members approved a resolution calling for the city to create a Parks & Recreation Recycling Task Force. The resolution says, in part, that “approximately 4 of 300 City of Austin parks and 14 of 51 City of Austin aquatic facilities currently provide recycling opportunities.” Austin’s Parks and Recreation Board voted to urge creation of the same task force at its April 24, 2018, meeting.
Dobbs also spoke to the commission, saying: “The good news is that we’re at a point where everybody wants to do this.”
TCE’s handout says that most of Austin’s biggest parks have recycling though as “many as 293 out of 300” Austin city “parks have no recycling, including almost every neighborhood park.”
City figures support this analysis. The city hasn’t funded a parks recycling program.
About this statement:
Published: Friday, June 8th, 2018 at 4:27 p.m.
Researched by: W. Gardner Selby
Edited by: John Bridges
Subjects: City Budget, City Government, Environment, Recreation
Sources: Handout, Texas Campaign for the Environment, April 2018 (document received by email from Andrew Dobbs, Central Texas program director, legislative director, Texas Campaign for the Environment, May 23, 2018)
Emails, Andrew Dobbs, Central Texas program director, legislative director, Texas Campaign for the Environment, May 23 and June 5, 2018
Phone interviews, Charles Vaclavik, manager, operations and maintenance, City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, May 30 and June 5, 2018
Video, “Consideration of new resolution: Recycling and Composting in Parks – Discussion/Action on the implementation of recycling and composting at City of Austin Parks and Recreation Facilities,” City of Austin, Zero Waste Advisory Commission, April 11, 2018
Resolution recommending Austin City Council action to expand recycling and waste diversion to all Austin parks and City of Austin recreation facilities, approved by Zero Waste Advisory Commission, April 11, 2018
Resolution recommending Austin City Council action to expand recycling and waste diversion to all Austin parks and City of Austin recreation facilities, approved by Parks and Recreation Board, April 24, 2018
Phone interview, Shelley Parks, acting manager, Marketing and Communications Unit, Austin Parks and Recreation Department, June 8, 2018