Author: Lily Schwartz

A Tale of Two Cities: Paying for Multifamily Recycling

Municipal governments use a number of different strategies to pay for public recycling services. These approaches can differ in who is expected to pay, the amount that is paid, and the means in which the payment system is carried out. Across North Carolina, local governments typically rely on one of two main sources of funding for recycling programs: solid waste fees and general tax revenue. I chose to look into the questions of who pays for recycling and how they pay as one of the topics of my 2018 Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) fellowship program research. In particular, I studied the approach used by several communities to highlight the different strategies of paying for recycling with a particular subset of the population in mind: residents of multifamily housing.

Previous research has suggested that residents of multifamily housing may experience lower levels of access to recycling service than residents of single-family homes. Since multifamily properties are commonly treated as commercial businesses which are often ineligible to receive public recycling services, residents of multifamily housing may have a greater likelihood, depending on how the program is funded in their community, of indirectly paying into a municipal recycling program that they are ineligible to receive service from. This is especially true where recycling services are funded by a tax or fee that is universally distributed amongst residents. Two municipalities in North Carolina, Orange County and the City of Durham, were interviewed about the payment strategies that are used to finance multifamily recycling services. Continue reading

Moving Forward with Multifamily Recycling

Lily Schwartz is a fellow in the 2018 Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) program. As part of the LEAF Fellowship, Lily spent the summer of 2018 working as a technical assistance intern for The Recycling Partnership, a nonprofit organization that leverages corporate partner funding to improve recycling in cities and counties across the United States. Lily helped The Recycling Partnership to assess the nation’s current landscape for multifamily recycling and examine policies for moving forward.

There are many examples where families living in multifamily properties, such as apartment buildings and condominiums, have different levels of access than residents of single-family homes to important environmental services and programs. In the past, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (EFC) has carried out applied research on a range of multifamily services, including access to energy efficiency programs and water bill assistance programs. Multifamily housing makes up nearly one-fifth of the total housing stock in the United States, with more than 20 million occupied housing units. In spite of this, a recent study found that less than 4 million people live in communities where recycling services are automatically provided to multifamily properties. Increasing access to convenient recycling services for multifamily residents can lead to environmental benefits by increasing resource recovery and reducing the water and air emission impacts of landfills and virgin material use. Better understanding current service practices and barriers to service expansion can help improve future service.

During the summer of 2018, a Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) fellow from the EFC worked with The Recycling Partnership to assess the nation’s current landscape for multifamily recycling by conducting interviews with recycling programs leaders for all 50 states and 67 different municipalities.

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