Off-campus apartments hinder Flagstaff’s sustainability efforts

Ilustration by Aleah Green

Even with on-campus sustainability efforts in place, many off-campus student housing complexes still struggle to provide on-site recycling.

Off-campus housing communities without on-site recycling options include Fremont Station, The Standard and Woodlands Village Apartments, among others.

In 2018, Flagstaff imposed restrictions on the recycling of certain plastics. This regulation resulted in an increase of landfill waste, which raised concerns for off-campus housing complexes that do not offer recycling.

NAU’s on-campus housing provides students with small recycling bins in dorms, which can be emptied into one of many large recycling bins outside. Metal cans, paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, jugs and jars are accepted as recyclable materials.

Without the convenience of on-site recycling, many off-campus residents dispose of their recyclables alongside landfill waste, rather than seek alternative recycling locations. Furthermore, many students may not be aware of recycling drop-off locations throughout the city.

The city’s sustainability specialist Dylan Lenzen explained why many of Flagstaff’s housing complexes do not provide easy access to recycling.

“Recycling in multifamily complexes can be challenging,” Lenzen said. “First, these types of properties are not actually required to provide recycling service, so many of them don’t or only procure a single recycling dumpster relative to many trash dumpsters. This scenario can be pretty inconvenient for residents.”

The city has made recycling pickup services cheaper than landfill waste pickup, which encourages property owners to recycle.

Although city recycling prices are low, many complexes go through private companies with higher prices.

“As a city, we’ve tried to incentivize recycling by structuring the costs so that recycling is much cheaper than trash,” Lenzen said. “With that said, multifamily properties can also purchase service from private haulers operating in Flagstaff, which may not offer the same incentives.”

There are alternatives for those who are not able to recycle directly at their residences.

Most off-campus student housing does not advertise these separate recycling options. Along with the Flagstaff Municipal Materials Recovery Facility located at 1800 E. Butler Ave., current drop-off locations include the Continental Little League field parking lot, Coconino Community College and NAU’s Pine Knoll Drive drop-off.

Due to the lack of on-site recycling and information about drop-off locations, many residents are unaware they have the option to reduce waste.

With numerous global efforts aimed toward sustainability, it may appear as though conservation has gradually increased. This trend may not be true for waste reduction.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the total amount of municipal solid waste produced in 2015 was approximately 262 million tons. This amount increased by 3.5 million tons from 2014. Of the 262 million tons of waste, 26% was paper and paperboard, both of which are recyclable materials.

These statistics make it apparent that

Flagstaff housing complexes that do not offer recycling conflict with the city’s emphasis on environmental preservation. The Flagstaff Sustainability Program works to increase recycling efforts citywide.

Maggie Twomey, an event coordinator for the Flagstaff Sustainability Program, organizes events that promote community involvement and sustainability.

“There are many aspects of sustainability, and we are working really hard on sustainable living,” Twomey said. “It takes a global effort to make it happen.”

A Master Recycler course, which is offered through the program, is open to the public. The eight-week course trains participants on waste prevention and composting.

According to the city, participants also learn about sharing goods, waste-hauling programs, toxin reduction, residential recycling, fixing and reusing.

Along with community involvement programs, Flagstaff has established several goals toward reducing waste, many of which involve recycling. According to the city’s Sustainability Commission, one goal includes achieving zero waste by 2050, meaning 90% of materials must be diverted from landfills. Recycling will be a key component to accomplish this goal.

In addition to the lack of recycling at Flagstaff apartment complexes, there are also inconveniences with glass recycling. According to the city’s glass collection services, residents can recycle glass at one of the designated drop-off locations. Those interested in having glass picked up at their residences must pay a $3.81 monthly subscription fee.

Recycling inconveniences may lead to increased landfill waste in Flagstaff. This costly trend can be combated through community awareness and involvement in recycling. Additional information regarding recycling can be found on the city’s website.