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Off-campus student housing fails to provide recycling

Recycling and sustainability have become an ever-increasing concern for the Durham community at large, leading the town to implement a clause in the conditions of approval for the newest commercial complexes that requires buildings to offer single stream recycling to its students. However, although the clause exists for the Durham complexes of Orion Student Housing, Madbury Commons and the Lodges at West Edge, questions have been brought up by residents about whether or not these properties are abiding by the rules of this legally binding clause. 

The town’s Integrated Waste Management Advisory Committee, Planning Board and Department of public works have been working together to spearhead recycling efforts within commercial and multi-unit complexes through offering free recycling pickup.

“We think it’s reasonable to require that developers include recycling services,” Durham town planner Michael Behrendt said. “It’s not a very expensive thing and it’s appropriate for a development of several hundred students.”

When Peak Campus proposed the building of their property to the town, the Lodges at West Edge, and came before the planning board on Nov. 28, 2012, its condition of approval document contained a clause titled “Waste management” that states, “The applicant shall provide the opportunity for the residents to use single stream recycling.”

Similarly, when the University Edge property of Orion Student Housing (25-35 Main Street) and the Golden Goose Properties’ building Madbury Commons (17-21 Madbury Road) were proposed to the town and came before the planning board in the early months of 2014, their conditions of approval also contained a “Waste management” sector that states, “The waste management plan shall include single stream recycling.”

As a result of the complex’s acceptance to their conditions, the planning board approved their proposals, and the conditions of approval were implemented in order to increase the town’s recycling rate and eco-friendly presence.

Be that as it may, residents were able to confirm that Orion Student Housing does not offer recycling to its inhabitants.

“I lived in Jenkins Court last year, and they had recycling, so I made it a priority to recycle,” senior psychology major and Orion Student Housing resident Madison Molea said. “I would definitely recycle if [Orion] offered it, but they don’t.”

Several other students stated that the Orion complex does not offer recycling services to its residents, although, according to the students, lack of space is not an issue.

“I was bothered most by looking out our window and seeing 80-90 percent of the trash dumpsters overflowing with recyclable materials,” UNH alumna and former Orion resident Ellie Farias said. “I would like to hear what [Orion Student Housing’s] reasoning is behind not offering such an easy and accessible service that has such a huge impact on our world today.”

Each complex’s conditions of approval also required that “the property owner’s waste management hauler’s name, account number, and phone number shall be provided to the Durham Health Officer (DHO) . . .”

According to planning zoning and assessing office administrative assistant Karen Edwards, Orion Student Housing, Madbury Commons and the Lodges at West Edge provided Waste Management as their hauling service.

Property manager of University Edge, Beth Parker, has not responded to requests for comments regarding the Orion Student Housing complex’s accessibility to recycling at the time of publication.

However, Orion Student Housing may not be the only complex whose operators are potentially disregarding their clause, as residents stated that Peak Campus’ Lodges at West Edge does not offer single stream recycling. Among the students to comment was senior civil engineering major Jack Reitz.

“There is no designated recycling [bin] at the Lodges,” Reitz said. “I feel it’s important to make sure that waste such as plastic and aluminum and all recyclable materials can at least go to their proper destination [so] it would be nice if [the Lodges] had a separate dumpster to recycle.”

In addition, assistant manager to the leasing office at the Lodges of West Edge, Stacey Haug, said, “No, we do not offer recycling.” She declined to comment further.

According to Durham Health Officer Audrey Cline, “The Lodges are making single stream recycling so inconvenient, nobody wants to take advantage of it.”

The Lodges at West Edge appear to offer a recycling bin.

Peak Campus’ hauling company, Waste Management, was able to identify that the Lodges complex offers one 10 yard recycling bin by the ‘N’ building, but could not confirm or deny by the time of publication if the bin receives pickup through their services. It remains unclear if the Lodges do in fact offer recycling, as the statements of the town and the complexes offer contrasting answers.

“It is then a judgment call for the town whether their system reasonably meets the requirement,” Behrendt said. “We now see the deficiency of having such a simple requirement so in the future, on large projects, we will ask for a detailed recycling plan and that plan will be part of the approval.”  

“The [University of New Hampshire] has set up a ‘zero waste task force’ to bring our trash diversion rate up, as it has been hovering around 30 percent while about 70 percent of our waste goes to landfill,” junior forestry major and member of the Trash 2 Treasure (T2T) student organization, Bob Keefe, said. “Recycling efforts on off campus apartments would be an important first step to achieving that goal.”

To many residents’ relief, Madbury Commons has consistently offered plenty of clearly labeled and accessible single stream recycling receptacles.

As noted by the chairperson for the Integrated Waste Management Advisory Committee Nell Neal, “[Madbury Commons] has put forth a great effort.”

According to Golden Goose Properties Leasing Manager Mimi Roper, Madbury Commons offers trash chutes on every floor in the larger “north” building where recycling bins for tenants to put their recyclables in are also present. The south building offers three recycling bins in the designated trash rooms on the first floor.

Behrendt stated that the town of Durham has learned that future large projects will most likely require a more detailed plan in order to ensure that approved projects are complying with their conditions of approval, and the first step is strengthening the communication between Durham’s Planning Board and other committees. This starts with creating a more detailed condition of approval in regard to recycling that includes more specific guidelines concerning how many receptacles should be offered when taking the population of the complex into consideration, but also enforcing stricter management policies on behalf of the committees.

Although he doesn’t explicitly know if any of the complexes are fully abiding by the clause requiring single stream recycling, Behrendt said that the three departments will be arranging a meeting with the property owners very soon.

“I think we need to step it up some at a staff level to meet with them,” Behrendt said. “Depending on what they’re doing, we need to push to have a stronger program.”

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