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Multi-Family Residents' Access to Recycling

​There's no two ways about it - recycling for multi-​family properties such as apartment complexes is a major challenge. In their 2024 State of Recycling report​, The Recycling Partnership found that only 41% of Illinois residents in multi-family buildings have access to recycling. In Kane County, multi-family property managers are required by ordinance to provide residents with recycling service (Kane County Code of Ordinances, 11-111, B). Still, compliance with this ordinance is spotty.

Do you live in a multi-family building or complex where recycling is not provided? Please contact us at (630) 208-3841 or recycle@kanecountyil.gov. Your report can be anonymous. It is helpful if you can provide a name, phone number or email address for property management. When we receive reports, we work with property managers to help them understand the ordinance and establish suitable, cost-efficient service.

See our “Frequently Asked Questions" guide for multi-family property compliance with the Kane County Recycling Ordinance​.

Establishing New Recycling Service (for Property Managers)

It is strongly recommended that property managers obtain multiple quotes for service since pricing can vary a lot. Managers should also read over contracts carefully, with advice from legal counsel if possible. Things to examine include:

  • What is the duration of the contract?
  • Is pricing fixed during the duration of the contract, or is it variable?
    • ​If variable, is there a maximum annual increase​?
  • How are contamination fees assessed and how large are these fees?
  • Under what conditions may the property manager end the contract?
  • What are the penalties for ending the contract early?
  • What happens if the waste company is merged or bought during the term of the contract?

Multi-Family Recycling Program Challenges

When recycling service is provided, there are still some challenges that are fairly unique to multi-family situations. Property managers enter private contracts for service with waste haulers. Some waste haulers assess contamination fees when items that are not recyclable are placed in commercial recycling dumpsters because it costs the hauler money to fish those items out and take them to the landfill (or, if the hauler is dependent on a third party processor, they might be assessed fees for contaminated loads). If contamination is a frequent problem the fees really add up and property managers typically pass these expenses on to residents.

There are two main sources of contamination in recycling containers: fly dumping and improper use by residents.

Fly dumping occurs when people who do not live at the property trespass and use the recycling container illegally to dispose of items that are not accepted in the recycling container. Potential solutions to fly dumping include placement of dumpsters in locked or access-limited enclosures and/or use of surveillance equipment to monitor container use. If surveillance equipment is used, signage indicating monitoring and penalties is also useful.

Improper use by residents occurs when there is misunderstanding or a lack of consideration among residents about what materials can be placed in the recycling container, or if the garbage container fills up and residents use the recycling container as overflow. If there's a problem with overflow, property managers should either adjust the garbage container size or collection frequency to meet resident needs. Other contamination issues need to be addressed through communication to residents.

Plastic bags are a very common contaminant in multi-family recycling. Residents usually need to walk or drive their recyclable items from their home to a communal recycling dumpster, and using plastic bags is a convenient and mess-free way to do that. However, almost all waste companies view bagged recyclables as contamination. Plastic bags tangle equipment at recycling sortation centers, and it would take too much labor for workers to empty out all of those bags. Some potential solutions:

  • residents can use other containers such as cardboard boxes, reusable shopping bags or reusable storage totes to transport their recyclables
  • residents can still use plastic bags, but should empty the bag into the recycling container and then throw the empty bag into the garbage container (or reuse it, if it isn't too dirty)

Education of residents is critical to reducing contamination of recycling due to improper use of containers by residents, and Kane County can help at no cost! Here are some options:

  • The Kane County Recycling Coordinator can come give a presentation to residents; and/or
  • We can provide copies of the most recent Kane County Green Guide for each unit; and/or
  • We can customize a poster and/or flier that can be made available in common areas
    • Spanish language material available

We also encourage property managers to push their contracted waste hauling company to improve signage/markings on communal containers and to provide education and outreach material for residents.

If you're interested in working with Kane County to improve recycling at a mult​i-family property, contact us at 630-208-3841 or recycle@kanecountyil.gov