How to Avoid Recycling Violations
It is time-consuming to go to the Environmental Control Board to fight a recycling violation you may get from the city's Department of Sanitation (DOS). If you are like most owners, you probably just pay the fine. But with fines for each violation ranging from $25 to $500, the costs can add up.
You are much better off not getting recycling violations in the first place. To help you do this, we will review the laws relating to the most common recycling violations issued to apartment building owners and tell you how you can participate in DOS's Apartment Building Recycling Initiative.
Violation #1: Not Properly Putting Out Recyclables for Collection
The law requires you to separate certain materials, referred to as recyclables, from the rest of your garbage. You can get hit with this violation if you put out recyclables in a manner not permitted by DOS, such as using the wrong type of bag or container.
The law requires apartment owners to place separated recyclable material at curbside no sooner than the evening before the recycling collection day and to place recyclable material out for collection in appropriately labeled recycling containers covered with a tight-fitting lid or in securely tied, clear plastic recycling bags.
Plastic, glass, metal, and beverage cartons. You should use 18- to 32-gallon rigid containers, preferably blue, labeled on the sides and the lid with the words “RECYCLING: BOTTLES AND CANS” in letters at least 4 inches high or labeled with DSNY Metal, Glass and Plastic Recycling Program decals (blue decal); or use 13- to 55-gallon clear plastic recycling bags.
Paper. Use 18- to 32-gallon rigid containers, preferably green, labeled on the sides and the lid with the words “RECYCLING: MIXED PAPER” in letters at least 4 inches high or labeled with DSNY Mixed Paper Recycling Program decals (green decal); or use 13- to 55-gallon clear plastic recycling bags.
Corrugated cardboard. This material must be bundled and tied separately from mixed paper unless it is broken down into small pieces to fit in a recycling container or bag.
Newspapers, magazines, catalogs, and phone books. These may either be placed with other mixed paper into rigid recycling containers labeled “RECYCLING: MIXED PAPER,” or into clear plastic bags. In addition, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, and telephone books may be placed out for collection in securely tied bundles, not to exceed 18 inches in height. These recyclables may be bundled together with flattened corrugated cardboard.
Violation #2: Mixing Garbage with Recyclables
By law, tenants must place separated recyclable materials in the recycling containers provided by the building owner. Tenants are required to separate recyclable materials from household trash and household refuse may not be placed in recycling containers.
If a DOS enforcement officer finds regular garbage such as food mixed in with the recyclables, DOS can issue this violation to a tenant if there's evidence that the tenant put the garbage in with the recyclables. This could happen if, for example, the tenant's name is on garbage that's mixed in with the plastic, glass, metal, and foil recyclables. Unfortunately, in most cases DOS won't be able to identify who put the garbage in with the recyclables, and the owner, not the tenant, will get hit with this violation.
Therefore, before you put the recycling containers out at curbside for collection, check them and remove any regular garbage.
Violation #3: Not Separating Recyclables Where Tenants Deposit Garbage
Whether you do curbside recycling or use Dumpsters, there must be separate places for tenants to deposit regular garbage and each type of recyclable material in the area where you collect and store garbage. You must provide a sufficient number of recycling containers in each storage area to prevent containers from spilling over. And the recycling containers must be clearly labeled with letters of a conspicuous size to indicate what recyclable materials may be properly placed inside.
If a reasonably practicable storage space is not available in the building, and space reasonably accessible to all tenants is available behind the property line of the building, the space behind the property line may be designated for storage of recyclable materials. The owner, however, must maintain the storage area and store designated recyclable materials so as not to create a nuisance or sanitary problem.
Violation #4: Not Posting Recycling Signs
You'll get hit with a violation if you don't post or maintain the required recycling signs in your building, the signs aren't posted in the right place, or the signs don't contain the right information.
Whether you do curbside recycling or use Dumpsters, post the recycling signs following DOS's sign-posting requirements. Replace the signs if tenants deface them or tear them down.
What signs to use. Your signs should list the materials tenants must separate for recycling and tell tenants what their recycling obligations are. Signs must measure at least 8.5 inches by ll inches.
Where to post signs. You must post a sign in each area where tenants are supposed to bring their garbage, such as your compactor rooms. No other signs are needed if tenants also must bring recyclables to these areas.
If recyclables are collected and stored in a different location outside the building, you should post the sign near the building entrance, by the resident mailbox areas, or in some other public area in the building where tenants are likely to see it.
Consider Building Recycling Initiative
DOS has a program for tenants and owners who would like to see recycling improved in their buildings. “At the training programs, we will discuss the recycling laws as they apply to apartment buildings and how to set up apartment buildings so that recycling happens smoothly,” says Samantha MacBride, deputy director of DOS's Recycling Unit. “We have found through independent statistical research that the biggest predictor of how well a building recycles is whether the management has properly set up a recycling area with the right signs and the right receptacles that are labeled correctly and are serviced regularly so that they are not overflowing,” she says.
In the meetings, the trainers will invite participants to talk about what is going on in their buildings. The trainers recognize that the culture of each building is different, says MacBride. For one building, handouts may be a good way to remind tenants to separate recyclables from regular garbage and for another building it may be more effective to give a little speech at a tenants' association meeting if there is one.
After you have attended the training, you'll receive personalized suggestions to improve your building's recycling setup. Throughout your participation, owners will have access to DOS recycling experts for recycling pointers and support.
Training sessions are held at the offices of the DSNY Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling in downtown Manhattan.
DOS also can do specially scheduled off-site trainings for at least 10 participants. Each participant must complete the registration form found on the Web site. For these trainings, Sanitation Outreach Coordinators will visit your building to see how recycling is set up. They will also provide your building with recycling decals, posters, checklists, and other materials to encourage all residents to recycle more.
For more information about the program and instructions for registering for the training sessions, visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless.
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