Students lack information about recycling services

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Although the City of Austin continues to implement an ordinance aimed at increasing recycling, students remain uninformed about recycling services available to them.

According to Aiden Cohen, City of Austin Business Outreach Program manager, the city’s Universal Recycling Ordinance requires that multifamily properties with 50 or more units provide recycling for their tenants. Cohen said 25 percent of total trash capacity must be dedicated to recyclable materials this year.

Allan Gamel, Dobie Center head of maintenance, said the building offers weekly recycling on the lower levels. Dobie houses more than 900 students, but Gamel said he was unaware of a city ordinance.

“If it were a requirement by the city, I would have known about it by now,” Gamel said. “There’s no city mandate to recycle, but we’re taking it on ourselves to recycle.”

Gamel said the recycling receptacle is primarily used by the center’s kitchen staff and retailers, and he hopes to place recycling containers in residents’ apartments and in laundry facilities by mid-year.

Cohen said the city is not prescriptive on the type of education property managers provide about recycling, but they are required to inform residents at least once a year about recycling services.

“We leave it up to the property managers to achieve the goal of a highly effective recycling program,” Cohen said.

Cohen said Travis County tax records often indicate who may be affected by the ordinance. He said property managers and owners can submit a “Recycling Plan” — an online form that describes the property’s trash and recycling services — that is the first step toward implementing a recycling program and ensuring a complex complies with the ordinance.

According to Cohen, failure to comply with the ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor and could result in fines ranging from $200 to $2,000 per violation per day.

“This [ordinance] is not intended to be a revenue generator but to get people to recycle and have recycling for their tenants and their employees,” Cohen said. “We’ll work with the property owner or manager to see if there’s anything that we can do to improve their recycling program.”

Cohen said the city encourages those who manage properties with a high turnover rate to notify residents of available recycling services more frequently than once per year.

“I think some of this is common sense,” Cohen said. “If your business is focused on students and the students are changing more rapidly than once a year, then you may need to have more frequent education of your tenants.”

English and Plan II junior Taylor George said that without available receptacles to separate recyclable materials, he would not make the effort.

“I guess you could buy your own recycling bin and just empty it out yourself, but it would be a lot of effort,” George said. “If there were a recycling bin in my room, then I would recycle. It would be easy — just put paper in one [bin] and trash in the other.”