Dallas Morning News
By Tristan Hallman
Original article here
Dallas City Council members don’t want to waste any more time waiting for apartment complexes and businesses to offer recycling programs.
With a unanimous vote Monday, the council’s Quality of Life Committee directed city staff to draft an ordinance within the next two or three months that would mandate recycling programs for multi-family properties. The committee members also want city officials to look at mandating recycling services for commercial properties, but the timeline on such an ordinance was fuzzier.
The committee’s strident push for mandating recycling programs at apartments came a year earlier than a previous timeline called for and after council members reviewed data on the lack of voluntary participation from apartment complexes.
“We call ourselves a well-managed, cutting edge city. A growth city. Lots of new business. Dallas is on fire,” said council member Rickey Callahan. “Well, we need to get on fire with recycling.”
The decision was met without stiff pushback from the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas — which wants to see more details — and with backing from environmentalists such as Trammell S. Crow, the son of the famed late Dallas real estate developer.
“We need strong leadership,” Crow said at a Monday morning news conference. “We need it at the top level.”
Dallas has offered recycling services for single-family homes for years as the city tries to divert recyclable materials from landfills. Commercial property trade associations say the majority of their members are now offering single-stream recycling programs. And hotels are making progress, city officials said.
But apartments have been a recycling wasteland. Danielle McClelland, the city’s Zero Waste program manager, told the City Council’s Quality of Life Committee on Monday that voluntary participation among apartments has “not gone as well as any of us would have hoped at this point.”
Less than a quarter of apartment complexes in Dallas — which house more than half of the city’s residents — offer recycling services. The Apartment Association of Greater Dallas gave a variety of reasons: cost, lack of interest from residents and management and a shortage of space for big blue recycling bins.
Corey Troiani of the Texas Campaign for the Environment said the apartments “haven’t made a good-faith effort” to offer recycling.
The need for apartment complexes and commercial properties to participate is simple, McClelland said: “That’s where the people are.”
The council was due to consider mandating recycling programs in 2019, according to its Zero Waste Plan. But Dallas has been falling short so far on its zero-waste goals, and the situation didn’t figure to improve in the next year.
An ordinance, which would have to be approved by the full City Council, could mandate recycling programs for new construction and phase in existing apartments according to size. Other cities, such as Austin and San Antonio, only mandate recycling for apartment complexes with a certain number of units.
But those minimums are relatively low — five or more units in Austin and three in San Antonio — and Dallas could go a different route. Most of the complexes in Dallas have more than 200 units, and the city could start with mandates in those complexes first and work their way down to smaller complexes during the following years.
Apartment Association of Greater Dallas Executive Director Kathy Carlton said Monday she knew the mandate could be coming. She wants to work with city staff to address some of the potential pitfalls, such as easing parking space requirements to free up space for recycling.
“We more are concerned with some of the devil in the details,” she said.
Council member Philip Kingston said he felt past excuses from apartments didn’t hold water. He said he wants to see “the strongest possible mandatory recycling ordinance.”
But city officials have plenty of other questions to answer. How do they handle the differences with commercial waste? Can the city’s brand-new recycling facility can handle a major increase in materials? Should the city eventually mandate recycling of certain materials? Will the changing market for recycled materials support the stepped-up efforts? What if people still choose not to recycle even with the programs offered? And what will be the added costs for renters already pressured in recent years by rising rents?
White Rock council member Mark Clayton said there may be some reasonable concerns, but “at some point, you just got to tell people, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’”
“It can’t be a, ‘We’ll-get-around-to-it-in-10-years’ approach,” he said.
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