Recycling Draaaaama
March 6, 2012 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Apartment building recycling bin drama.

We are embroiled in some apartment complex recycling bin drama. Here's the setup for this totally ridiculous situation:

My husband and I live in a condo-apartment building with 21 units. Our side has only 6 units, and is totally disconnected from the other part of the building where most of the older owner-residents live. There is a parking area with about 20 spots under the building. We are renters, to the best of my understanding most of the other residents are owners. We have a parking spot that is right at the front of the parking area, and the recycling bins and mailboxes live directly adjacent to our spot.

What's been happening:

It's been a slow build to the latest. Over the 2 1/2 years we've lived here, there have been the odd passive-aggressive note posted over the mailboxes about how it is "everyone's responsibility" to take the recycling bins out. We get it. My husband actually does take them in and out fairly regularly. Sometimes, though, we come out in the morning to find the full bins arranged behind different cars in the lot, clearly "suggesting" these people should take out the bins. Sometimes it's our car, sometimes it's not.

There is no complex wide arrangement about this, no manager or super (since it is technically condos, not apartments). The trash is picked up by the city from our parking lot, so there are never any problems with that. It's just these stupid recycling bins.

This was all fine, whatever, someone's a little bent out of shape about the bins until this week: we are now somehow engaged in a war of passive aggressive notes. I admit now we may have played a role in this. (Actually, definitely did. Oops).

The bins have not been taken out for about two weeks and are overflowing all over our parking space. My husband and I are irritated about this and my husband plans to take out the bins in the morning for pick up day. Come morning, though, the bins have once again been "arranged" in front of various cars in the parking lot (though not ours this time).

Unbeknowst to me my husband takes it upon himself to write a note suggesting that it is actually equidistant to move the recycling bins in front of people's cars vs moving them to the street where they will be picked up. And then he wrote that whoever is doing this should "cut the bullshit and act like a grownup. Either take the bins out to the street or just leave them alone".

When I find out about this note, I have to admit, I think it's kind of great that he called this person on their bullshit. Perhaps not the most mature response, but this arranging the bins in front of cars thing is really obnoxious. Also we have no idea who is doing this, so there's not really a "direct" means of communication.

I come home today to find a note, presumably from whoever is so invested in these bins, addressed to "Dear Children" and then goes on to say that there is no "fairy godmother that takes out the bins".

Yeah, we get it, obviously there is not a fairy godmother. But the fact remains that this passive aggressive BS with the bins in front of people's cars is unnecessary, and seriously, if you're going to the trouble of moving the bins, actually take them out or just leave them alone.

This is all also particularly aggravating because as I mentioned the bins are right next to my car so we end up with a pile of recycling trash in my spot when they are not taken out; furthermore, I sort of suspect that people think WE are responsible for taking them out. Which we are not, we are just as responsible for it as everyone else who uses them. I also get the sense that people in the complex have developed some idea that we are irresponsible students or something, since we are much younger than many of the other owners/residents (by which I mean we are late 20's professionals and they are all late 40's and up). Finally, I don't understand why this person is SO CONCERNED about the bins... their aggression with the rearranging is way out of proportion to the issue of the bins not going out, particularly since the bins do not infringe on their space in any way as they do ours. Really, we should be the ones annoyed about this.

So. This is where we are. I suppose there are two issues:

1 - How to proceed in this passive aggressive note war. This is bad juju, and dude, it's just recycling bins, we can figure this out. Clearly posting more notes is feeding the beast. I suppose this is not really a question, but rather a confirmation of what I already know.

2 - How to get the recycling bins to go out on a weekly basis. There is no super or management, I have no contact with anyone in the building besides my immediate neighbors. I don't really WANT to have any more contact with anyone in the building. But, clearly this is a problem. We can continue ignoring it and taking the bins out on our own schedule, or.... something?

This is really the stupidest problem ever. But it's really getting my hackles up the someone is being so condescending and passive aggressive about something like this.
posted by annie o to Human Relations (17 answers total)
The building does have management, you just don't know who it is. This building has an HOA of some sort. It basically has to -- someone is paying for the trash pickup, and it's clearly not the individual units, because trash gets taken as a group. You should find out from whomever you're renting from how to contact the HOA, and ask them how to deal with this issue.

Alternately, make up a schedule for every week for the next 5 years rotating through the unit numbers every week. Post it on everyone's door, on the bins, On the cars, etc. Passive aggressive, sure, but someone has to come up with a plan and it might as well be you.
posted by brainmouse at 5:01 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Talk to your landlord. Discuss the bins overflowing - skip mention of the re-arranging and notes except to say, "We're worried neighbors might might think we are responsible! Please talk to the Board!!"

Also. I bet your neighbors likely know who the doughnut is. But I understand your concern.
posted by jbenben at 5:03 PM on March 6, 2012

Instead of having the bin storage near your car, can the bins instead be left at (or near) the place where the recycling gets picked up every week? Each person would have to walk a little farther to take out their own stuff, but at least that way there wouldn't be any question about whose job it is (i.e. each person is responsible for his and only his recycling).
posted by phunniemee at 5:03 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you live in a condo, part of the rent goes to management fees that go somewhere. Contact your landlord. The landlord needs to talk to whoever your management fees are going to, to work out how to — you know — manage the property.

Otherwise, stuff like this will just escalate until:

1. Either of said parties move out
2. Something happens that involves the police and/or emergency services

Just talk to your landlord.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:06 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had someone leave an anonymous note on my door years ago for something trivial. I left the note up long enough for everyone to see it, and my neighbors outed the poster by process of elimination by coming to me one by one and saying they weren't the ones who put it up, and thought it was dickish.

Where is your husband leaving this note? Did he sign it? Where was the response posted?
posted by alphanerd at 5:17 PM on March 6, 2012

I think a combo of brainmouse and MoonOrb would work a treat. You generate a fair solution that holds everyone accountable, then nicely hand it to your neighbors. Looking each other in the eye goes a long way to cutting out bad feelings. If that fails, nthing speaking to your landlord.
posted by goggie at 5:40 PM on March 6, 2012

Do you have people's emails? Our condo association has had relatively good luck trying to work this sort of stuff out over email, because it's business-like and tends to get to the point. But if not, knocking on doors is the way to go. The problem will never get solved with a note war, but if you guys talk to other neighbors about a workable solution (I guess our policy of "always assume it's your personal responsibility, and figure you "won" if you get to it first" might not fly), you'll likely build trust - at least among the non-dickish among you.
posted by ldthomps at 5:50 PM on March 6, 2012

1. Don't proceed. See #2.

2. This is a really good opportunity, actually. Grit your teeth and get in touch with your neighbors--ok, maybe this would involve a note or two if your neighbors are away when you stop by, but sign it and leave your phone number or email address. Call a meeting to arrange a schedule for taking out the recycling. Acknowledge that the current "system" isn't working, suggest sharing the responsibility using some type of regular schedule, perhaps have something posted (I bet someone among the passive aggressive note writers would like to be in charge of updating the calendar). If it's truly the responsibility of the residents to coordinate taking out the recycling, someone has to step in, act like an adult, and work this out before it escalates further. "Acting like a grownup" in this situation means both addressing the dysfunctional system currently in place and doing your share of taking out the recycling.

(Or you could move.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:56 PM on March 6, 2012

The simplest solution is to accept that you drew the short straw by getting the least desirable parking spot, and start taking the bins out all the time.

Your neighbors aren't kids who need to develop character or learn responsibility, and this isn't dogshit or garbage. It's recycling.
posted by Kakkerlak at 5:58 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm confused. Your trash has a designated space in the parking lot and the garbage collectors magically remove it from this location and haul it away as part of the marvel that is our waste disposal system. Why can the recycling not be included in the same system? Residents shouldn't have to haul the entire complex's communal recycling out every week unless this is part of an organized system adopted by the HOA to save money. It may be that there is simply no room in the trash area to accommodate the recycling, but the solution there is for the HOA/condo board to make a quick and cheap renovation of the trash area.

In a 21-unit building, there must be some kind of maintenance/cleaning personnel who care for the facility? Maybe ask them what's up with the recycling bin madness. Certainly you guys don't use the same communal approach here for fire inspections, re-roofing, gutter cleaning, or painting the exterior (leaving a roller and a can of paint behind your car perhaps as a suggestion that you should repaint the building).
posted by zachlipton at 6:56 PM on March 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

Find a high-schooler who walks past your building every day (or even lives in your building?). Pay him/her a couple of dollars a pop to take the bins out. I would have done it when I was a kid.

Then it's up to you whether you take one for the team or try to collect contribution money from your neighbours.

Problem solved.
posted by lollusc at 7:36 PM on March 6, 2012

Don't write any more notes. No more engaging with this rudeness, particularly because it seems like people already have this horrible (but unfair) opinion of you. Not even the most beautifully written anonymous note will ever cause these neighbors to see your side, unfortunately!

Plan on having to take out the recycling every week, unless someone else does it first. Meanwhile, if you'd like a more agreeable solution (and perhaps a more fair one), follow what others have said about starting to talk to your neighbors, and contacting management to set up some sort of schedule. (The problem with a schedule, though, is that people forget, and that when they forget it'll suck most for you. So you'll still end up having to do a lot of the recycling-taking-out.)
posted by violetish at 8:41 PM on March 6, 2012

zachlipton makes an EXCELLENT point. I've co-owned and managed buildings. Yes there is always some kind of weekly maintenance crew. This sounds like their job.

I still think you need to contact your landlord. Please don't engage your neighbors on this further. That is 300% your landlord's responsibility. It is why you pay rent and don't own.
posted by jbenben at 10:58 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

So which parking space *never* has the bins piled up in front? If you can't get this resolved quickly and want to figure out who the bin-stacker is you should be able to figure it out (but I agree it is probably known to others).
posted by mikepop at 5:21 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I left the note up long enough for everyone to see it, and my neighbors outed the poster by process of elimination by coming to me one by one and saying they weren't the ones who put it up, and thought it was dickish.

I have a friend that did something similar in her building (she was a renter amidst a majority of owners), except that she wrote the note herself. She copied the font/style of previous notes and ramped up the passive aggressiveness to super-awkward levels. The note leaver saw the false-flag note and fessed up to the others ASAP as they did not want to be thought of as being that jerky. "I wrote the other notes, but I would never write THAT!" "So how about in the future, you talk to me directly so there won't be this sort of confusion again?"

Notes decreased building-wide.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:15 AM on March 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

robocop, your friend is brilliant.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:39 PM on March 7, 2012

Detach. Take the recycling bins a little more often than is your fair share. Ignore everything else. It takes just 1 fussy jerk to start a war, but you can be all "What if they gave a war and nobody came."

Or try robocop's idea, which is hilarious and awesome.
posted by theora55 at 6:02 PM on March 7, 2012

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