When I moved to Spanaway from Grays Harbor this summer, I couldn’t have been happier with my new apartment. I couldn’t find a single complaint until about a day and a half after I moved in. I couldn’t find the complex’s recycling bins. When I asked my manager where they were, I was shocked when she told me that like many Pierce County apartment complexes, we do not recycle.
I soon started to notice that it wasn’t just apartment complexes that didn’t recycle. I began to look for recycling bins on the sides of the streets surrounding my complex in the mornings. Only about one out of every three houses seemed to be participating with the local recycling program. This was even more shocking to me; in my hometown, not recycling was a thing of gossip.
On a daily basis I find myself appalled at the amount of waste my two-person home produces, and how much of that waste could be saved and recycled. My bin will be full with yogurt containers, soft drink bottles, cereal boxes, milk jugs, aluminum or tin cans, glass, and paper. All these items can and should be recycled.
Once my bags of waste leave my apartment complex, they don’t reach a recycling center; they are taken to vast landfills outside the city. Landfills are somewhat of a necessary evil, however their bulk could be greatly reduced by not filling them with items that could be reused or recycled. Plastic can be melted down, paper reformed. Neither belongs as filler in a garbage dump.
I asked my landlord why we don’t recycle. The answer was simple: it’s just too expensive, and not enough residents would participate. I couldn’t accept this. There had to be something I could do to diminish my contributions to the local landfills.
Aside from the blatant waste of space, not recycling is a tremendous waste of time, resources, and money. It is immensely faster and cheaper to produce a product out of recycled materials than it is to produce one from completely new materials. Recycling also helps slow the process of taking new resources from the earth, and greatly reduces air and water pollution.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the average monthly cost of recycling per household can be greatly reduced, depending on how the recycling is sorted, how often it’s collected, and if the program is decreased when households stop recycling. The data indicates that a single receptacle for all recycling collected bi-monthly is the most effective and cost efficient.
I called Mark Tveit at the City of Tacoma Solid Waste center and asked if my apartment was an anomaly in not recycling or if this was common. According to Tveit, very few multifamily units (such as apartment complexes) utilize a recycling program because they become so difficult to manage. “They become garbage bins,” he said. “Not everyone participates properly and it becomes a problem.”
At the moment, it looks as though recycling in local apartment communities is not going to happen. But there is still hope. Tveit explained that anyone who is a Pierce County resident can drop off their recycling at the Tacoma Solid Waste Management site, free of charge. Sure, it’s more effort than just tossing it in the trash, but by taking the extra time for an apartment renter to bring in their recycling will drastically reduce the growing size of landfills and help clean up our environment.
If you’d like to take your recycling to the City of Tacoma Solid Waste Center, you can visit the landfill located at
3510 S. Mullen St.
Tacoma, WA 98409
Contact information for the Solid Waste Center can be found here