How to start a recycling program at the properties you manage

Trevor Henson
Trevor Henson | 4 min. read

Published on October 31, 2013

Nearly 75% of all solid waste (garbage) could be recycled, but only about 30% actually is. The problem is obvious, and the solution is even more brutally clear. With an ever-increasing focus of “green living” and recycling, Americans are more aware of the benefits in terms of environmental impact and cost savings. They’re ready and willing to participate. They just need you to help organize the effort. Tap into the nationwide effort (with nearly 9,000 curbside recycling programs and much more) to help green your community.

A strong recycling program is a laudable goal. (Flickr/Peter Kaminski)
A strong recycling program is a laudable goal. (Flickr/Peter Kaminski)


The first step in setting up a recycling program is to determine the level of interest for a recycling or waste reduction effort in your community or property. You can gauge interest with something as simple as a survey, or a poll that you attach to your monthly newsletter, with the added incentive of a gift card or discount offer to encourage a speedy response.

At your regular property get-together, you can also get quick reactions and gain immediate insight into which individuals in the community would spearhead a recycling program. Your recycling program will always be more successful when you have key leaders in the properties you manage.

First Steps

Before going to all the time and expense of launching a full-scale recycling and waste-reduction program, first start with simple steps and basic implementation. By placing recycling bins in common areas, you can start to get your tenants accustomed to the idea of recycling and reducing waste reduction without investing a lot of money up front.

You can also make your recycling efforts part of the beautification efforts in your community or property. According to the EPA, beautification of a community or property has been shown to lower the crime rate, improve the reputation of a the property, and facilitate economic development. It also works to improve morale and community camaraderie. Show the tenants how they can contribute to the effort of making their community a better place and foster a sense of shared purpose.

Green Building

As a property manager, you also may have the ability to put into place green-building techniques and materials. Something as simple as the energy-efficient roller shades can improve the energy bills for the tenants of your properties. If upgrading the blinds isn’t in your property-management budget, you can also consider offering discounts or other incentives to encourage, and even reward, your tenants for implementing green-building improvements themselves.

You should also investigate ways in which “green” maintenance and building will benefit your tax liability. Your tenants may be eligible for tax benefits as well for their “green” behavior.

Set Goals

The best way to motivate the tenants in your community, and make your recycling and waste-reduction program part of your long-term property-management capital plan, is to set goals and follow through. The best-laid plans won’t get you very far if you don’t show how dedicated you are to making them a success. Putting leaders in place is, of course, an important step; but you also need to determine how far you want to go, and whether you’re willing to get creative with incentives, team-building techniques, and your facilitation efforts.

  1. Show them; don’t just tell them.
  2. Give them the resources (bins and information).
  3. Make your goals part of expected behavior for your community or property.
  4. Develop recycling and waste-reduction as part of beautification techniques.
  5. Encourage appropriate behavior, whether through discounts, gift cards, or simply a pat on the back.

Have you started a recycling program at your properties? What’s been the secret to your success? Share your tips below.

This post originally appeared on the First Light Property Management blog.

Read more on Maintenance & Improvements
Trevor Henson

Trevor Henson is Chief Operations Officer and Founding Partner of First Light Property Management in Manhattan Beach, California.

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