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Erik Burgess, Published September 03 2012

Moorhead mulls apartment recycling program

MOORHEAD – Apartment tenants here may no longer be green with recycling envy, as the City Council has begun discussing better options for bringing curbside pickup to renters.

According to census data, 38 percent of Moorhead’s housing is rented property, but the city’s recycling program considers these complexes “businesses” so curbside pickup is not afforded to them, said Chad Martin, the city’s director of operations.

The owner of one rental property, Farmstead Estates, said his 48-unit senior-living complex deserves direct recycling services from the city.

“They’re big apartments. It’s like 48 houses,” Roger Erickson said. “Wouldn’t you have a recycling program for 48 houses?”

Councilmembers discussed the issue in their Aug. 27 meeting, some arguing that the city should look into better alternatives for rental unit tenants.

Current options for apartment residents include taking their recycling to one of four drop-off points in the city or asking their landlord to invest in a private recycling program.

“If they request recycling then we should find a way to accommodate that,” Councilwoman Nancy Otto said.

Unfortunately, Martin said, recycling at multi-family units would be whole new animal for the city. Residential curbside pickup is currently done by hand, and the larger volume of recyclables at apartment complexes would require bigger trucks and more labor hours.

“It’s commercial recycling, and we’re not there,” Martin said. “In order to get there, we’d have to do a fair amount of capital expenditure.”

Minnkota, a private company which works on both sides of the river, currently sells recycling services to apartment complexes. Sales manager Mary Aldrich said they could provide a service to something like Farmstead Estates immediately.

But a 2008 Minnkota survey of local apartment complexes found that a majority of owners did not want the service, Aldrich said, as they are concerned about space limitations and price. The cost of the service varies widely based on the size of the bins and the frequency in which they are emptied, Aldrich said.

“A lot of tenants are asking for it, but not a lot of property owners,” she said.

Only one apartment complex in Moorhead uses Minnkota’s service, along with a handful of condominiums in Fargo, Aldrich said.

Martin said the four drop-off sites have had great success in the year since their installation, but councilmembers argued that these might be too inconvenient for some tenants.

The city will be working with Minnkota in the near future to discuss better options for renters, said City Manager Michael Redlinger.

The city might keep referring businesses to Minnkota, which they do now. It could also consider a revenue-sharing system where the company and Moorhead would tackle the problem together, or the city might choose to outfit their recycling fleet for direct competition with Minnkota.

Redlinger said the issue will likely be pushed until later in the year after budget talks or into early 2013.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518