Monday, April 9, 2012

Must condominium and cooperative owners become their "brother's keeper" when it comes to recycling?

The City of Miami Beach has spent the last couple of years considering an ordinance that would force the residents of multifamily properties (which includes condominiums, cooperatives and apartment buildings) and its commercial establishments to have in place and participate in a recycling program or face fines for violations. The ultimate goal of the ordinance is to ensure that everyone in the City is recycling and helping to "go green". While this ordinance may have the best of intentions, the ordinance being considered by Miami Beach (and perhaps other municipalities in the future) may not be the best way to achieve those intentions.

Let’s take a quick look at the requirements in this proposed ordinance for both multifamily properties and commercial establishments. Each must have a City approved recycling program in place and use licensed recycling contractors that have been approved by the city and state. There will be a period of time prior to enforcement where the City will help to educate residents and business owners of what is to be recycled and how it is to be done. The City has budgeted money for the initiation of an education program. Once the enforcement period starts, the first violation for not having a program in place is $350 and goes up from there for each subsequent violation. If, after the first time, someone does not recycle, there is a violation which will be $100. The fines will continue for each new and continuing violation.

Here is the sticking point. The fine is not paid by the individual responsible for the violation but by the property owner or the association. This means that those living in a condominium or cooperative may have to become their brother’s keeper as far as recycling goes or be financially responsible for the violators living in their midst.

Another Florida city took a different path to achieve the same "go green" goal. In looking at ways to increase recycling rates, the City of Tampa conducted a study on focus areas within the City and determined where the barriers to recycling lay for both multifamily properties and commercial establishments.

The City of Tampa then looked at ways to help alleviate those barriers and to educate their citizens as to the benefits of recycling. The study determined that the use of incentives, such as savings on residents' utility bills, City recognition, and on-going education raised recycling rates. With the commercial establishments, the study found that a large majority of the businesses didn’t know about the recycling program but were more than willing to participate once they were educated on the program.

Both the City of Miami Beach and the City of Tampa recognize the importance of recycling and want to encourage their residents to participate in reducing our landfills which is certainly a laudable goal, however one municipality is approaching the problem with a stick while the other used a carrot. The Tampa ordinanace is already in effect. The Miami Beach ordinance has not yet passed.

If you'd like to take a look at the Miami Beach ordinance on recycling, go to This will take you to a page where you will need to select the second Bookmarked Agenda and once the PDF comes up it is the item starting on page 354. That will give background on the original proposed ordinance and what is now being proposed.

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