The trash can will no longer be the sole destination for plastic bottles and cardboard boxes at condominiums.
But new blue bins at multifamily units will likely come at a cost to residents, who could see fees go up to pay for newly mandated recycling programs.
Under a state requirement that kicks in today, owners or managers of multifamily dwellings with 10 or more units must now provide recycling opportunities for residents. To comply with the law, Echo Glen I Condominiums in Frederick will have to pay a contractor $5,700 per year to pick up recyclable materials, said Jonathan Hamrick, president of the board of directors for the complex. Hamrick said his board had to hurry to find a contractor because a city recycling pilot program was phasing out just as the state mandate was taking over.
“Honestly, we were scrambling,” Hamrick said. “I could have really asked for a better outcome considering the circumstances.”
Frederick County handles recycling programs for the entire jurisdiction but serves only single-family houses and town houses. The county doesn’t extend pickup services to commercial properties, such as apartments or condos, according to Phil Harris, the county’s superintendent of solid waste management.
Because recycling pickup is available to single-family houses, the county asks them to pay more. The annual system benefit charge for a single-family house is $88, while the county collects only $49 for each apartment or condo unit.
Until Tuesday, the city of Frederick gathered recycled materials from certain multifamily units as part of a pilot program. However, in view of the state law, the city discontinued the recycling pilot, said Zach Fleagle, the city’s superintendent of sanitation.
The state mandate does not require the county to expand its services to the multifamily dwellings and places responsibility for recycling efforts squarely on the managers or owners of the housing complexes. Maryland Delegate Kathy Afzali said she voted against the 2012 legislation because she believed it would create additional costs for condos and apartments.
Most everyone would support increased recycling, but Afzali, R-District 4A, said she would rather create incentives than make demands.
“Why not encourage these places to recycle through a tax break?” she said. “Now, you’ve got this system of government twisting people’s arms.”
If condos or apartments fail to make recycling available to residents, they could face fines of up to $50 each day, according to the state law.
Hamrick said along with several other factors, the new recycling requirement has forced his board to raise monthly condo fees. Since the board hasn’t presented the new fees to residents, he declined to reveal how large the increase will be.
Harris said he is optimistic that the state mandate will divert waste from the landfill, although he doesn’t predict recycling rates will jump by a significant amount. The county does not have exact estimates for the potential increase in recycling, he said.
Dumping fees paid by contractors will cover any additional expense to process a higher volume of recyclable material, he said.
Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.