J500 Media and the Environment

Most Convenient and Mainstream Recycling Business!? by sachikom

Sunday morning is depressing. Beer cans, whisky bottles and plastic cups on streets, front yards and in a dumpster. This is a college town. I can’t stop thinking how much waste has been thrown in one day without being recycled.

My proposal for Lawrence business – Why don’t we green student apartments? Solar power, storm-water system, composite toilets, we can be as much as creative. But I think most practical and user-friendly idea is to provide a recycling service to large apartment complexes, such as the Reserve, Legends Place and Hawks Pointe. Just like the campus recycling, place recycle bins next to regular dumpsters.

Benefits of this proposal- We don’t have to drive for recycling. It will raise the residents’ awareness and make environmentalism more mainstream. The service will expand business opportunities in Lawrence.

The most single problem is the cost. At what cost, can the apartment complexes offer this kind of service? Currently, Sunflower Curbside Recycling picks up residential recycling with $16/month for a weekly service and $10/month for a biweekly service.

The Lawrence Journal World recently reported the future possibility of municipal curbside recycling in Lawrence. The curbside recycling has been a top priority of the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board. According to the article’s estimate, such a municipal service will require $5.6 million to start and $2 million a year to keep it running. This will add $12 to each residential utility bill for once-a-week curbside collection.

Based on those numbers, let’s assume the recycling service would cost between $12 and $16, which will be included to rent. Do you think the residents of the apartments are willing to pay this price? Twelve dollars per month sounds expensive to me, but if you think they will split the cost with their roommates, it’s not that much.

As the city envisions, ideally the recycling service will be available to all Lawrence residents. But it will take time. Plus, I think this is particularly important to be initiated at larger apartment complexes first. It’ll be more cost-efficient and its influence will be huge in terms of changing the residents’ and students’ behavior and the amount of materials recycled.

I’ll end my proposal with the quote of Celeste Hoins, administrative manager of the Environmental Stewardship Program at KU, who talked to me about the KU recycling service last semester.

“The visibility of our containers encouraged recycling. It’s a habit. Once you start recycling, then you feel weird throwing a plastic bottle in a trash.” (The University Daily Kansan, “New Service Recycles Campus Furniture“)

By Sachiko Miyakawa


Photo credit: Hastings Borough Council


10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I would love to see recycling in apartment complexes because I think that students don’t see the convenience or necessity of doing it when it’s not right in front of their faces.

As far as cost goes, the city or the apartment complexes would have to make an initial downpayment, but in a few short months, I think they would have collected enough aluminum to almost fully pay for the service.

What do you think can be done about disposable plastic cups that are always used at parties?

Comment by Lauren Keith

I completely support this idea. Living in college town, we all have seen our fair share of waste. If we had these bins where I live (Legends Place) I guarantee students would start to recycle. Our dumpsters here are usually overflowing with cardboard boxes and lots of plastic that is just going to the land fills because students are too busy to make the effort and trip to Wal-Mart. I’m going to mention this to the management!

Comment by snelson33

Thank you, Sachiko.

This is such an important issue for this city. I urge you all to get involved in whatever ways you can and I have asked my fellow SAB members to weigh in on this issue – they are a lot smarter than I am.

The one thing I will point out is the LJW coverage was really incomplete. The start-up costs are contingent on what services are offered – and those can be determined by what residents are willing to pay.

If you know anyone who has gotten a survey from the city, please let them know there is NO hard and fast cost. The $5.6 million price tag is for ONE scenario. Many other options exist.

I also thought it would be cool for you to see how much revenue the city recognizes for the recycling we are doing (at city recycling facilities). These figures were emailed to me today by Kathy Richardson of the Lawrence Waste Reduction and Recycling Division

Fibers Report
Old Corrugated Containers (OCC)
Cardboard Tons Revenue
Current YTD 190.46 $23,977.82
Prior YTD 137.79 $12,068.85
Avg. Price/ton thru Feb. 2008: $125.90
Avg. Price/ton thru Feb. 2007: $ 87.59

Old Newspapers (ONP)
Newspaper Tons Revenue
Current YTD 133.06 $16,185.00
Prior YTD 166.84 $15,344.20
Avg. Price/ton thru Feb. 2008: $121.63
Avg. Price/ton thru Feb. 2007: $91.97
(one load is estimated weight, still waiting for final wt. from Purina)

Office Waste Paper (SOP)
Sorted Office Paper Tons Revenue
Current YTD No shipments $
Prior YTD No shipments $
Avg. Price/ton thru Feb. 2008: $
Avg. Price/ton thru Feb. 2007: $
(currently waiting for full load – nearly 20 tons in storage)

Old Magazines (OMG)
Current YTD No shipments $
Prior YTD 0.63 $40.63
Avg. Price/ton thru Feb 2008: $
Avg. Price/ton thru Jan. 2007: $65

Mixed Waste Paper (MIX)
Tons Revenue
Current YTD 13.84 $ 1,313.97
Prior YTD N/A $ N/A
Avg. Price/ton thru Feb. 2008: $94.92
Avg. Price/ton thru Feb. 2007: $
(held for most for better price in March, approx. 16 tons in storage to ship soon)

TOTAL ytd tons Revenue
337.36 $41,476.80
Prior YTD 305.26 $27,453.68

Comment by j500

Revenue from recycle material is something I didn’t think of. Now we have one more benefit of doing the recycle business.

I don’t come up with any good idea replacing plastic cups at parties. I’d say use reusable cups but I don’t think they’ll do that. Maybe somebody should produce disposable cups using recyclable materials or reduce the size of conventional cups so that each cup uses less plastic.


Comment by sachikom

Howdy Folks,

I am a friend of Simran’s, a Lawrence resident, and a solid waste professional, thus she asked me to chime in on your discussion. Here goes…

In the solid waste management profession, what folks here are discussing is called “multi-family dwelling” (MFD) recycling.

MFD recycling certainly has its challenges, but it can be done. Be aware that the presence of large numbers of MFD units in Lawrence is one of the main reasons City staff cite for why they think City-sponsored curbside recycling won’t work. I disagree.

We just need to start doing research and thinking differently about the problem.

Currently, the City relies on voluntary, private sector collection of recyclables, or the use of personal vehicles to drop recyclable materials off. Neither system is particularly efficient, nor truly measurable or accountable. I agree with a previous poster that the City’s recently touted cost estimates for curbside are based on VERY limited research, and IMHO, are fairly biased against such a program.

We need to look at more than one option for addressing the problem of waste in our community.

There are a number of college towns in the Midwest that have successfully addressed the MFD recycling issue. Their experience shows that it can be done, if it is the will of the community and staff.

To work, MFD recycling often means the passage of an ordinance which establishes a recycling requirement for landlords, and in some cases, a monetary penalty if they do not provide the infrastructure and lease requirements needed for their tenants to recycle.

Commingled, or single-stream, recycling is also an increasing trend in many communities, and it works especially well for MFDs because no sorting is required. You just have one dumpster for trash, and a separate dumpster for recycling. Wouldn’t that be great!?!

One down side, though, to single stream recycling is this: it often excludes glass, for a variety of logistical and market reasons. Glass recycling is an entirely different topic. I digress….

In many cases, municipal curbside recycling is provided by Cities only to MFD dwellings of less than 4 units, whereas a commercial or commingled system for recycling is employed by larger complexes. The important thing, though, is that the City need to conduct planning to be sure that everyone in a communty has reasonable access to recycling services.

Here are some examples of University towns with some form of MFD recycling (or, in the case of Boulder, a brand new comprehensive solid waste plan that is creating both curbside recycling and addressing MFD options).

Happy reading!







I encourage folks who are interested in this issue to ask both KU and the City to take another look at MFD and curbside recycling options.

Comment by Laura Routh

I agree with the commentary that says that college students and most other renters in the city of Lawrence could be expected to recycle many different types of materials if the service was provided.
It will take the citizens and students making it clear to the city that they want this service before it will be provided. I can assure you that the SAB is working towards the goal of more recycling in Lawrence.
Daniel Poull
Sustainability Advisory Board member

Comment by Daniel Poull

Sachiko, great post! I’ll add to the concept of recycling at the high-density apartments: we need a service for recycling things, much like the Environmental Stewardship Program does on campus, but in the city. Think of the possibility of having a group of dedicated people who could go around collecting the unwanted couches, chairs, beds, bookshelves, cameras (yep, I’ve found those in dumpsters) to a central facility for students and community members to peruse in search of replacement belongings. Many students don’t have access to a vehicle to transport those items, so off to the curb they go. Bob Yoos told me yesterday that 50 percent of the housing in Lawrence is rentals — think how much stuff is left behind when people move, and how much is tossed at the new place when they move in. All we need is people power and a facility… -Jen

Comment by jenh

Laura, thank you for your post and links. I’m very glad to have a chance to learn from you.

You said we need to look at different options for addressing the problem of waste. Then, I was thinking about the possibility of trash tax to encourage recycling and reducing trash. It should be done with MFD recycling or curbside recycling. For example, under the system, residents have to pay tax for each bag of trash. Apartment owners may pay for each dumpster. The city can use the revenue to keep/develop the recycling system and don’t need to bill residents. Has this kind of issue been discussed in the advisory board? If so, I’d like to know the probability/disadvantages of this tax.

Sachiko Miyakawa

Comment by sachikom

Jen, 50 percent is a lot. It might be a good idea to create a database for Lawrence residents to exchange those surplus furniture. It’d be very convenient if transportation comes with furniture, but it probably costs a lot to provide the service. Maybe the city can subside a rental tracks/U-Haul service for people who reuse the old furniture.


Comment by sachikom

Daniel, thank you for your comment and effort to create the better recycling service in the community.

I don’t have a car. I’m able to do recycle because of my roommate’s help. I assume there’re many students who want to recycle but don’t have an opportunity to do so.

Please let me know if I have a chance to output my voice. I’d love to help/work on developing the recycling service.


Comment by sachikom

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