Phoenix, Arizona, named after the mythological firebird forever reborn from the ashes of its former self, is currently implementing a pilot recycling program for city-owned multifamily housing in low income neighborhoods. But there are particular challenges involved, mainly spreading awareness to residents regarding what goes into which receptacle, and inciting them to take advantage of such accessible means to recycle. In addition, city officials plan to overcome these obstacles by handing off awareness responsibilities to city property managers, a strategy that may lead to interesting outcomes.
The incentives for Phoenix to enact sustainability programs throughout city-owned property is clear. They need to reduce management costs over time and one way to do so is to make multifamily residences more sustainable. The pilot program being implemented at two city-owned apartment complexes, Park Lee Apartments and Sunnyslope Manor, hopes to prove this is possible, after which it will be extended to all low-income housing units under Phoenix ownership. If shown effective on such a grand scale, the program will be further expanded to cover all multifamily city residences to help curb waste management costs.
The problem is that property managers paid by the city are basically doing their bosses bidding by creating ways to inform residents as to the existence of recycling bins and the ways in which the waste is separated into them. Private-sector property managers aren’t going to be so pressured to go out of their way to inform and enforce a recycling program throughout low-income housing. In addition, initiating such a program among working-class, unemployed, and often unsettled droves of individuals raises its own set of challenges.
Such housing units in the northwest corridor between Phoenix and Scottsdale see all walks of life, from stay-at-home moms to transients to those who need just a little help getting back to being productive members of society. This diversity further complicates matters for those behind the program and managers tasked with making their property more sustainable. Schedules are odd, struggling families are resistant to change, and the residents themselves move in and out so much that it’s hard to ingrain any sort of habit change on a mass scale.
We know from experience a recycling program is successful based on these three factors:
Informing people about how to identify, separate and properly dispose of their recycling in and of itself takes little more than leaving fliers door to door and emailing a recycling FAQ. But things get harder when it comes to dishing out the responsibilities to property managers without offering incentives, and reaching out to individuals who are either too busy trying to get by to care or aren’t even bothered enough to throw their garbage in a trash can. Will Phoenix succeed in instituting a city-wide recycling program for multifamily residences? That depends on how badly they want to live up to their city’s namesake.
We can offer our Lessons Learned: Recycle Bin Setup