As an “older” member of my condominium building said to me last year, “How is it that we don’t have recycling, it’s 2011?” Well, it’s now 2012 and finally we have recycling in our building. Nearly four years after we moved in, we now have a bin for recycling. It’s a sad state of affairs, but emblematic of a few different issues, primarily the battle over costs incurred by the homeowners.
We pay for trash hauling through fees that are part of the homeowner’s association (HOA) dues. A few years back a decrease in dues was voted on by a small majority of residents that were at the annual meeting. As a result a solar energy initiative was shelved. The sexier solar installation discussion garnered more interest than recycling at that time. At $2.50/month per unit, the cost of recycling was an added cost, about 1% of the monthly dues for the HOA. The solar option would’ve been a one-time assessment on the order of $1,000-2,000 fee per condo unit. In theory it would reduce the amount of electricity the building drew from the grid (by approximately 25%). For as long as I have lived here, some efficiency measures were already in place. Specifically, common areas use more efficient CFLs instead of incandescent ones. However, the extra cost of a solar installation would have been carried by the residents directly, whereas the higher upfront prices of CFL bulbs is already built into the HOA’s budget. A one-time assessment was too much for residents given the relatively small amount of the building’s energy use (for common areas only) that it would have generated. Currently the solar option is tabled until another group of homeowners decide to revive it.
Currently the building, with its 30 units, has trash and recycling picked up three times each week. Whether that will eventually go down to two days per week, due to less trash in the bin, remains to be seen. If enough waste is diverted from the 3 yard trash bin and directed toward the recycling bin (which is about half the size), the building can recoup the extra cost of recycling by having fewer pickups. Each time the trash is picked up, regardless of how much trash is in the bin, costs the building. A reduction of 33% (from three times per week to two) would save on our waste pickup. Right now, the cost of recycling is an extra $2.50 per unit, per month (or $75 for the building on a monthly basis). The likelihood of that being returned to the homeowners is low, but it has happened once before that owners voted to lower the monthly dues. If we save enough money it could happen again.
As a bit of background, Denver requires private waste hauling for multi-family buildings with more than seven units. If that stipulation weren’t provided in the city’s charter, we could’ve had recycling all along.