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Program aims to lure apartments to recycle

A pilot project gives complexes six months of recycling service for free in the hope that apartment dwellers will pitch in.

By MELIA BOWIE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 14, 2002


TAMPA -- Recycling, while widely practiced in both the city and the suburbs, continues to be a tough sell in apartment complexes.

Both the city and county governments are seeking to bring rental complexes onto their collection routes.

And while they have not given up, officials say they are challenged by growth that exceeds their outreach abilities and apartment managers wary of the cost and clutter.

"There's a lot of apartment complexes out there," said Barbara Heineken, recycling coordinator for the city, which serves 60 buildings of varying sizes. "I can't go running after all of them . . . but I would like to see the big ones."

One complex that has signed up for a pilot county program is Heritage Pines, which opened two years ago on Cross Creek Boulevard.

Residents there "had been asking for recycling from the get-go," said service manager Robert Vucsko. "We couldn't do it without incurring a lot of cost."

The county program, offering six free months of paper-only recycling service, proved the perfect incentive. The complex signed up four months ago.

"It's worked out great," Vucsko said. "The bins are full all the time. It's cardboard, phone books, catalogs, magazines and junk mail. Lots of junk mail."

Multifamily housing sites are not required to recycle because the law considers them commercial businesses; a smattering do so regardless.

Studies show that recycling is popular among mobile home dwellers, but is less so at student complexes.

Within the city, South Tampa apartment dwellers are especially receptive.

"Harbour Island, they're huge recyclers," said Heineken, who also has her sights set on a number of large complexes along West Shore Drive.

Although managers may think they cannot afford the service, officials say recycling ultimately pays for itself by lowering trash collection costs.

"Each case is unique, but it can cost $30 a month to $125 depending on how many containers they want and the size," said Elizabeth Brown, with Hillsborough County's Solid Waste Department. "Assuming they recycle one ton of material a month they will break even."

In the unincorporated county, complexes with 175 apartments or more can have their recycled paper picked up free for six months.

Informational fliers are also custom made for each community under the Multi-family Recycling Pilot Program, a $20,000 endeavor launched two years ago. The program, which is expected to continue until next year, also is open to any city complex that the county serves through its solid waste deparment.

"We've had 20 participants so far and they've recycled over 100 tons," said Brown, the program's community services coordinator.

"It's really very painless. One: Say yes. Two: Tell us where to put the Dumpster. And three: Distribute fliers to the residents."

-- For information on the county program call 272-5680.

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