Sustainability: Recycling and Waste Reduction

By Reggie Denis
General Services Assistant Director

Over the past ten years, Riderwood residents and staff have worked in collaboration to create an award-winning recycling program. Our campus has been the recipient of nine awards for outstanding achievement and individual effort in recycling. Over the past four years, we have seen our recycling effort reach a percentage ranging between 66 percent and 74 percent. With a county goal set at 70 percent by 2020, Riderwood is extremely close to achieving this goal. However, to reach/maintain this goal consistently, it will require the effort and knowledge of all residents and staff at Riderwood. Our current recycling program contains three facets: Resident Recycling, Office Staff recycling, and Dining operations recycling.

The residents recycling program produces the largest quantity of recycling materials. A collection of materials in front of resident apartments takes place on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Residents are encouraged to set their recycling materials outside of their apartment doors on Monday and Wednesday nights. Also, sixteen recycling closets are available throughout the campus for residents to drop off recyclable materials if you do not want to wait for the collection day.

Riderwood office staff are equipped with a trash container and a blue recycling container for paper and commingled materials.  A total of 60 SHRED-IT consoles dedicated for sensitive document disposal is available throughout the campus.

Dining Services recycles all food waste using twelve 32-gallon containers per kitchen, which are collected by a waste hauler (Bates Hauling) four days a week. All food waste is then converted to composting materials. In 2016, 642,000 pounds of food waste was collected from all Riderwood kitchens.  Also, cardboard, plastics and food metal cans are also recycled separately and transported to the central waste collection facility located across from the resident car wash. This process takes place seven days a week. Riderwood is one of only three senior housing places in Montgomery County with a recycling food scraps/composting program.

To achieve and surpass our desired recycling goals, we will need the collaboration of all residents and staff by adhering to the following guidelines:

  1. Continuous education of new & existing residents and staff of our Recycling program.
  2. Recycling Closets: Trash should not be disposed inside of the recycling closets. Once the recycling containers are contaminated, the materials are disposed of as trash.
  3. Understanding the recycling process: The collection of all recycling materials follows a process called “Single Stream.” Although residents are encouraged to separate Mixed Paper items (newspapers, magazines, soft cardboards) from Commingled items (metal cans, plastic water bottles, milk and juice containers, etc.), the collection of those materials in front of your apartment combines all items into one container. This container is then emptied into a compactor and hauled to an off-site drop-off center for processing. Sorting of Recycling materials is then conducted in stages, and automated machinery separates plastics, paper, metals, cardboards, etc.

Single Stream reduces sorting efforts and has been shown to increase the recycling percentage by as much as 30 percent. It also reduces the collection cost and workers fatigue. Riderwood trash and refuse expenses have benefited from such savings. Over the past five years, we have consistently spent less than the budgeted amount every single year.

Riderwood has also benefited from a dedicated Recycling Committee. The past three Co-chairs of this committee were all recipients of the Individual Achievement Award by Montgomery County: Tom & Bonnie Balzer, Josephine Hearl, and Louise McCauley.

I encourage all Riderwood residents to continue supporting our recycling movement. The benefits are too immeasurable to ignore. The Recycling Committee in partnership with General Services is always available for assistance, training, and education.

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