Recycling dumpster always full. Seattle landlord blames tenants.
June 19, 2013 11:01 PM   Subscribe

The recycling dumpster shared by about 30 people in an apartment complex fills up to the top and overflows the second or third day after it is emptied. It's been this way for a few months now, after some changes in the tenant count and removal of one dumpster. Landlord says people need to use the recycling dumpster space more efficiently, refusing to get more recycling space and passing on overflow pickup costs in building fees. How can I fix this problem?

Note this is in Seattle with a weirdly zoned property (commercial/living mixed use "artist" lofts).

I've suggested to the landlord that he should get more/larger recycling space. The landlord says people aren't stomping down their boxes, smashing their cans, etc. and are throwing oversized stuff in there. He says he will not pay for more recycling space (larger dumpster, more dumpsters/bins) until people use what is there correctly. And to a point he's right, but I looked at the dumpster. It's sorta "B-" not "A+". You'll never get every tenant in the complex to do a beautiful job of Tetris-packing their recycling.

I'm not in a hurry to have a nasty situation with the landlord. Even if I managed to force him to do something, then I have to deal with a damaged relationship between us. So I'm particularly interested in solutions that don't involve threats. Is there some published standard somewhere for average volume of recycling per person that I could use to persuade him? Any other ideas?
posted by ErikH2000 to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Find out how much he'd pay in carting fees (or whatever it is) for an appropriate amount of space. Divide by 30. Charge everyone that amount as a recycling fee. Done.
posted by Sara C. at 11:08 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alternately, if recycling is the law in Seattle, you could always tell the landlord that if he can't provide a bigger dumpster, you'll have to stop recycling once the bin is full. Let him weigh the potential fines against the cost of a bigger dumpster.

I mean, the reality is that the reason he's holding out is that hiring someone to haul away the recycling costs money, and he's trying to get by with the bare minimum. He probably doesn't hate the planet or have a fetish for box cutters. You can deal with it the nice way by offering to pay more to make sure the job is done properly, or you can do it the mean way by making sure to get him in trouble for noncompliance. (Again, assuming recycling is legally mandated and not just a perk offered by your particular landlord.)

I still think just divvying up the increased amount by 30 and paying for better service is probably the way to preserve your relationship with the landlord. But on the off chance that you can leverage the threat of fines, there is that.
posted by Sara C. at 11:18 PM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seattle mandates recycling by apartment buildings.

He is almost certainly violating the law in failing to provide adequate bins, but I wouldn't advise you to report him unless you think he couldn't be sure you were the one who did it.
posted by jamjam at 11:33 PM on June 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is there a bottle refund in Washington? What about writing a note to all neighbors to see would be onboard for an "informal" condo gathering. Note: this is NOT a condo meeting...just neighbors who share the same concern getting together. This is key because you don't want to appear to be bypassing condo meeting rules.

See who shows up, have snacks, etc. In-person, propose that you all rinse all deposit bottles and cans are stored in a separate container (maybe some bags that you could place in a bike room or something if you have one). Then, whoever decides to be on board with this would rotate on a weekly basis of bringing the cans to your local liquor store/bottle cash in place (even if there is just 4 of you into this then that is just once a month of doing this, so not time consuming).

Split the money equally between neighbors who are involved. Or, use it for small beautification items that don't seem worth the hassle of being requested from the condo trust (pot of flowers, container for said cash-recycled), etc. at minimum, it will cut down on the recycling volume and any spare change is a good thing. Then, hopefully others not involved will find out and help too.

It's a little unconventional but it worked for my friend in a 20 person brownstone.
posted by floweredfish at 12:20 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My typical preroll for this: My parents were landlords in seattle for a large apartment complex, i've had to deal with a bunch of scummy/weasel/dick/criminal landlords.

Seattle mandates recycling by apartment buildings.

Actually, they don't. My building doesn't have recycling and the landlord is a meticulous tightass. They're doing it out of cheapness, sure. But if it was against the law/codes/etc they'd be doing it to cover their asses.

I remember very well when the city pushed for every place to have recycling, but somehow there are still places that don't.

Is there some published standard somewhere for average volume of recycling per person that I could use to persuade him? Any other ideas?

There sortof is. I remember when they implemented it the building my parents were running suddenly got two ginormous recycling dumpsters, and a little glass rolly can. As i remember WM showed up and just said "Oh, you have this many units and this size of dumpsters? Well then you need this many of this size of recycling bins to not have them overflow".

I live nextdoor to a large complex that has one small recycling dumpster for the whole place and it fills up like this, so as far as i can tell it's unfortunately mostly up to what the landlord wants to pay. And although it annoys the pickup guys, cleanscapes/WM loves to just keep tacking on the fees which are probably way more than the dumpster charge. The landlord loves it too because he can get on you for "overfilling it" and pass the charges on to you since "you created the problem".

So here's what you do: Call the fire department, non emergency line and say that there's constantly boxes and papers and cardboard and shit piled up around your recycling bin because it's always overflowing, and that you're concerned it's a fire hazard. Do it maybe two days before they pick it up, when it's really fucking bad. They'll show up, and pretty much go "yep that's a fire hazard" and give him a MASSIVE fine. This will never come back to you, there's no way they're going to tell him who called it in since it's pretty much a strict liablity type of situation where it doesn't matter who caused the problem, he's allowing it to happen on his property. End of story.

They'll probably even tell him he needs to get another dumpster, or a larger one. And the cool thing here is that they'll probably even check back again to just keep fining him without you having to do much of anything.

That's what it took to get away from the garbage area looking like this(and much much worse. One time it almost went entirely to the ceiling) at a place i used to live at. The solution there was to pick up more often, since they couldn't fit more dumpsters.

Note this is in Seattle with a weirdly zoned property (commercial/living mixed use "artist" lofts).

Don't worry, doesn't matter. This is a safety issue, not just a "landlord is a butthole" issue. A friend used to live in a place in the international district where the constantly overflowing recycling started getting lit on fire fairly regularly. SFD will take this seriously.

I'd also like to add that

He says he will not pay for more recycling space (larger dumpster, more dumpsters/bins) until people use what is there correctly. And to a point he's right, but I looked at the dumpster. It's sorta "B-" not "A+". You'll never get every tenant in the complex to do a beautiful job of Tetris-packing their recycling.

Is such tiresome classic asshole landlord shit. It's like constantly punishing a kid for making a mess eating, and instead of just giving them a plate and some napkins to eat their food over you just keep whining "well, they're making the mess!". They could easily solve this problem and are letting it continue to be shitty and make life harder for everyone involved from the pickup guys to the tenants just because it's not their "fault".

Such classic douchey landlord shit. UGH.
posted by emptythought at 12:42 AM on June 20, 2013 [37 favorites]


Oh, and to save you the trouble since this is a bit buried, pop in your zip here and get the non emergency SFD number for the fire station that serves you.
posted by emptythought at 12:46 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is your landlord getting as much free recycling services as he's entitled to? A quick look at the Seattle Public Utilities site seems to indicate a lot of services and solutions for apartment building owners.


He's eligible for a certain level of free service. And he can also request more frequent pick-ups if the carts are filling up fast. And there are also multiple service providers so if the company that is handling his recycling is charging too much he can go to the competition.

Sounds like your landlord is a bit lazy about getting all the services he's entitled to.
posted by brookeb at 8:04 AM on June 20, 2013


It's not clear to me from your question that your landlord has actually spoken to Seattle Public Utilities about the issue. (On preview, I agree with brookeb - sounds like your landlord is lazy.) My experience has been that SPU is responsive and they do try to not make recycling some expensive, punitive chore. Why don't you phone SPU and explain the situation to them? They may have an easy solution, or maybe they can do some outreach to your lazy cheap landlord.

Curious about the overflow fees being passed on to the tenants. I guess that's legal because of the zoning? Because if you were in a residential apartment in Seattle that would not be proper. (In the city, landlords are responsible for paying all the residential utilities. Granted, it is, or should be, reflected in the rental cost, but they can't pass on unexpected utility costs that way.) So if it's legally ok, I'd see about Sara C.'s suggestion to split the cost between tenants.

And my sympathies, by the way. I lived in a building in Seattle that had the exact same problem. The problem there was that there wasn't enough legal room for a second recycling dumpster. Eventually the building got one of those single-family-home recycling bins - it eased the problem but did not completely cure it. But isn't it great how much we recycle in Seattle?
posted by stowaway at 8:23 AM on June 20, 2013


Is there a bottle refund in Washington?

Washington doesn't have container deposits/refunds. Also the recycling should be much more than bottles and cans, since city ordinance "bans recyclable paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles, and aluminum and tin cans from garbage containers", which in my experience in Seattle meant recycling bins filled up pretty quickly.

Perhaps you should suggest to the landlord that he increase pick-up frequency? If he's too stubborn to increase container size or pick-ups, then I second the idea to call SFD at a time when it's really overflowing.
posted by asciident at 12:15 PM on June 20, 2013


Curious about the overflow fees being passed on to the tenants. I guess that's legal because of the zoning? Because if you were in a residential apartment in Seattle that would not be proper. (In the city, landlords are responsible for paying all the residential utilities. Granted, it is, or should be, reflected in the rental cost, but they can't pass on unexpected utility costs that way.)

It probably isn't, that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen all the time though. I've had landlords try and charge me for half of the price of a new fridge when the old one failed due to age and being crap. It's generally pretty nebulous to the average person as to:

A. Who do i contact about this kind of bullshit? but more importantly

B. Will they really do anything, like actually?

This is one of the proper places to get info and file a complaint, but actually getting anything done about it is generally a ??? affair. As far as i know passing on costs like that is pretty much directly illegal, but your only recourse may be to collect as much info in writing about it like the landlord saying "This increase in costs is due to bla bla". Then check in with the city, and probably just file in small claims to actually get your money back. At most, as far as i know, they can fine them. Getting the money back is on you. This of course exposes you specifically to attack by the landlord as it identifies you. Maybe if you could get other like-minded people on board?

And as i said, the rules are likely the same for an "artist loft" place if it's legal to live in as they would be for any other rental, because it's you know, a residence. Even if it's a live/work space there's still that "live" part. I specifically went and looked for a separate set of rules, separate code stuff, etc for live/work spaces and didn't find anything.

The fire hazard thing still applies too, and you can even see it come up on that code page.

I'd also like to note that i've never heard of an apartment building charging "Building costs" like that on top of the rent, and while that might be some clever way by the landlord to try and circumvent the rules, i'm fairly certain it's somehow not kosher. It just seems like it has to be against some specific code/ordinance/landlord tenant act shit. I'm at work and it's far too large of a project to go surfing through that stuff, but i almost want to text my mom and quickly ask her because it stinks to high fucking heaven to me.
posted by emptythought at 2:25 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seattle mandates recycling by apartment buildings.

Actually, they don't. My building doesn't have recycling and the landlord is a meticulous tightass. They're doing it out of cheapness, sure. But if it was against the law/codes/etc they'd be doing it to cover their asses.
Building Owners/Managers
...
Why Recycle?
Recycling is good for the environment and it’s the law—City ordinance bans recyclable paper, cardboard, glass and plastic bottles, and aluminum and tin cans from garbage containers.

If garbage dumpsters contain more than 10 percent recyclables, the garbage will still be collected but a warning notice will be mailed to the garbage account customer. After two warning notices have been mailed, a charge of $50 will be added to the utility bill.
I did think there were more teeth in the ordinance, though.
posted by jamjam at 1:04 AM on June 21, 2013


Response by poster: Much thanks to everyone who answered. Myself and other tenants are discussing with the landlord now. We're pursuing a solution now that might involve just paying for more recycling. I read through all the answers here multiple times and feel very grateful your help.
posted by ErikH2000 at 2:57 AM on June 24, 2013


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