COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - New and recently renovated apartments in Columbia may pick up your trash right from your door, but most don’t have anywhere for you to put your recyclables.
WIS contacted almost 20 apartment complexes within 30 minutes from downtown Columbia, and most weren’t willing to speak to us about their recycling practices. Some apartment managers admitted they don’t offer recycling to their residents, and explained they’re met with many hurdles when they tried to offer a recycling option for residents.
Experts say the biggest issue is most likely the cost. In 2018, China stopped accepting all recycled materials from the U.S. China now only takes a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of tons of recycling it used to.
“They started getting tired of us sending recyclables with your trash that we call recyclable…they did that because we have such a high contamination rate,” says Lexington County Recycling Coordinator, Traude Sander.
This is a problem across the Midlands. The cost per ton of recycled materials has gone up almost four times in the past few months. Sander says recycling companies most likely charge apartment complexes extra because their bins might require more attention than a typical household.
At an apartment complex, you teach people how to recycle right, then they move on and a new group comes in. And then you have to teach them again and again,” Sander said.
Sorting through recycled materials at plants is one of the most expensive parts of the process. Therefore, the more items in a bin that need to be removed, the higher the labor cost.
Larry Cook, Recycling and Waste Manager at USC, agrees access to recycling in certain spaces is a problem. He says he hears complaints from a lot from students who move to off-campus housing.
This problem is exacerbated by an ordinance in Columbia that a property with six or more units isn’t eligible for curbside pick up.
He says he tells students to mention their desire to recycle to their property managers, but in the meantime, there are three locations in Richland County to take recyclables and eleven in Lexington County.