Absurd: Dallas, denser by the day, still doesn’t recycle apartment plastic, glass, etc.

Credit: Danny Fulgencio

This is embarrassing.

Hundreds of thousands of Dallas apartment renters do not recycle. Our restaurants don’t recycle either, unless they are willing to pay for a the service. I spent some time obsessing about this and pondering the true implications after reading last year’s Dallas Advocate feature about recycling in Dallas.

In March 2017, the magazine highlighted the city’s new $20 million recycling center. They also discovered that Dallas is one of the worst cities in the nation when it comes to recycling.

If you live in a single-family house, it’s pretty easy. Dallas gives you a blue recycle bin. Items eligible for recycling are listed on a big sticker on its side. Put said items in the bin and the city picks it up.

If you live in a multi-family building, you are not likely to see a recycling bin. This should shock all of us. But then, we are the city that reversed a plastic bag ban, so we aren’t very good at this.

Drive through East Dallas toward Deep Ellum, Downtown, Downtown itself, Oak Cliff—you name the area and chances are that multi-family dwellings are  proliferating like Gremlins binge eating after midnight, and the vast majority of these, like 70 percent, do not and will not offer recycling programs. Some smaller apartments can buy up to 10 blue bins for about $20 a month each, making it easier for tenants to take it upon themselves to recycle. Otherwise, apartment dwellers can place recycling materials in a box of their own, load it into the car and drive it to a recycling drop-off location.

Overall about 30 percent of Dallas’ apartments offered some form of recycling. As of last year about half of Dallas’ population lived in the city’s 2,300 apartment complexes. That’s like 210,000 people. Clearly that number is growing. Dallas, like many cities, has a Zero Waste program, intended to eventually eliminate trash from landfills altogether, making all things recyclable. 

A Zero Waste rep told me over the phone that they definitely were working with the city council to improve — to make apartment recycling accessible and mandatory, but she referred me to supervisor Danielle McClelland (unfortunately her line rings endlessly with no answer or voicemail).  

Dallas’ recycling rate has not improved since the city passed its “zero-waste plan” in 2013.

At that time, the city had a 20 percent “diversion rate.” That is the percentage of the city’s waste that doesn’t end up in the landfill. In 2013, City Council set a goal of increasing the diversion rate to 40 percent by 2020. This “zero-waste plan” included a voluntary recycling program for high-use clients like apartments and businesses.

As of March 2017, however, the city’s diversion rate remains stagnant at 20 percent.

“It’s pretty clear that there’s been little-to-no progress,” Murray Myers of the city’s sanitation department has said.

Due to such lack of progress, the Dallas City Council early this year professed to come up with a mandatory apartment recycling ordinance.

Dallas doesn’t have a requirement for apartments to recycle, and most people, let’s face it, aren’t going to load up their recyclables every other day and take to a drop off location.

“It could be the law in Dallas within three months after orders from a Dallas City Council committee Monday,” reported NBC5 in January this year.

That has not happened, though.

Landlords have said it requires extra space on properties that were not designed for recycling. The extra collection will add expense for property owners.

But, other large Texas cities, including Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin, have required multi-family and commercial waste recycling for years.

“Gosh, I hate being behind Austin on everything,” Councilman Mark Clayton told NBC. “We say we can’t do it, and then they do and they’re still thriving.”

I left a message with the city councilman Adam Medrano, in my district, 2, where residential construction seems perpetual, to see where the council is with this.

We will add more as we learn more.

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