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How We Recycle at AMLI Residential

by
Jun 25th, 2020

Here at AMLI, we are passionate about sustainability and our role in caring for our Earth. AMLI apartments are environmentally responsible and use energy wisely and efficiently. Our communities offer our residents healthy lifestyle amenities and provide clean, green, earth-friendly homes to live in. 

We strive to educate and empower our residents when it comes to caring for the Earth. We’ve explored how using sunlight can reduce our energy footprint. We’ve shown you how to make eco-friendly cleaning supplies. And we’ve shown you how to celebrate the holiday season sustainably!

Now, we wanted to hand the floor over to our in-house sustainability expert, Laura McComb! 

Laura McComb, sustainability associate at AMLI Residential, has graciously given us the low-down on one very important sustainability topic: recycling. 

So, if you want to learn more about recycling and AMLI’s role in helping to lower our carbon footprint, read on to find out what Laura’s told us about recycling at AMLI Residential.

Recycling laws are different in every state and sometimes in every city. Why?

Cities and states are facing two pressures. One is the pressure to be doing more for the environment, and clearly recycling is a great way to do that, so cities are setting more stringent recycling goals, and in some cases even creating zero waste goals. On the other side of things, we’ve really seen the recycling industry struggle over the past few years, especially since China and other countries stopped accepting our recycling. So you have other municipalities that are really struggling to justify the costs of recycling so have cut back on services.

What are some ways that recycling laws differ in each of the states where AMLI owns properties?

About half of our cities have ordinances where recycling is required, but we work to add recycling even in cities where it is not. There is also a growing trend in cities to require residential composting, which creates a great new way we can help our residents responsibly dispose of food scraps and other composting. While not a law, one of the biggest differences between our regions is whether or not glass is accepted in single-stream recycling. This is because broken glass can damage other recyclables and potentially injure haulers or other recycling workers. The good news is specialty recycling centers have the ability to recycle glass as long as it is not mixed together with other recycled materials.

Does the government run the recycling centers? If not, who does?

The recycling centers or material recovery facilities are often (but not always) run by the same people who are picking up your trash. Waste Management, for example, runs many of these facilities where they’ll sort through the recycling that they’ve hauled and then sell it to different manufacturing industries.

Where should people find out what they can and can’t recycle?

The best thing you can do is contact your waste hauler because they have a direct relationship with the recycling centers and understand what materials that center is able to process. They also know what center they’re taking it to, which is helpful because accepted materials vary between locations. Reaching out to them is certainly the number one way to know what can be recycled. At AMLI we’ve cut out this leg work for you and added recycling education signage by trash and recycling bins so you can know exactly what our haulers accept.

Some states have recycling laws specifically set for commercial entities. How does AMLI go above and beyond the basic recycling guidelines for commercial entities?

A lot of our properties handle recycling differently, but we are big believers in recycling and we know how important it is to our residents. In our new developments we’ve designed a more convenient system where you have not just a trash cute, but a recycling chute next to it, so it’s very easy and convenient for everyone to participate in recycling. We want to make sure it’s a positive user experience so it can be as successful as possible. 

We piloted several recycling upgrades last year to improve the recycling experience for our residents. These upgrades will allow us to improve recycling for residents at properties without a dedicated recycling chute.

We want to expand what residents can recycle. These initiatives vary between properties, but several have special recycling centers where you can recycle hard-to-recycle items like batteries and plastic bags. We also know a lot of cardboard boxes are only used a few times before getting recycled. To address this, some of our locations have started a give-a-box, take-a-box system that allows residents to reuse these. This extends the lifespan of these boxes, and is useful for residents when they’re moving in and out of the building. 

What can AMLI residents do to support conscious recycling in their local communities?

The best thing you can do is make sure that when you’re recycling, you’re not putting any trash inside the recycling containers. Contamination has been a big challenge in the industry, since it becomes challenging for recycling centers to locate the valuable materials and makes it harder for manufacturers to justify purchasing these products. It’s easy to place something in recycling and hope that will save it from a landfill, but, unfortunately, when there is too much contamination all of the recycling ends up getting sent to the landfill. None of it gets recycled. Making sure you’re recycling right and just focusing on the materials that can always be recycled is really key. 

AMLI has added Recycle Across America signage to our communities to show residents what our waste haulers accept, so they can make sure that only those items are going into the recycling bin. If you want to go the extra mile and recycle specialty recycling items that aren’t accepted by regional waste haulers, we have links for specialty recycling centers in your area in the Green Home Guides on AMLI.com. Our Green Home Guides offer a lot of other useful information too!

Here are those Green Home Guides for each region:

How much of a difference does recycling make in terms of waste not ending up in landfills?

Nationally, our recycling rate is around 34%. That is really significant, because a third of all materials could be going into landfills, but they aren’t. This not only preserves landfill spaces, but it also prevents environmental hazards because landfills can create toxins in the soil and water. Preventing materials like plastic from leaving micro-plastics in the ground is really meaningful to human health and the environment. In addition, manufacturers using recycled materials are reducing the amount of raw, natural resources taken out of the earth which helps conserve natural resources.

What advice would you give to people about recycling in their own communities, cities and states?

Get educated on what’s accepted in your local areas. And, when in doubt, throw it out! It’s really hard not to put something in recycling and fall into the trap of what’s known as “wish-cycling,” where you recycle materials because you hope it can be recycled. But those materials have the danger of contaminating all of the recycling, so really it’s much better for the industry to throw something away if you’re not sure where it should go. 

For more information on sustainability, recycling and eco-friendly practices at AMLI Residential, visit our sustainability page at AMLI.com/sustainability.

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Featured photo courtesy AMLI.com

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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