Create Your Own Curbside

When it comes to doing her part to saving the planet, Amanda Musilli has it easier than a vast majority of Detroiters. When the 30-year-old Leland Lofts resident recycles each week, she simply drops off her paper, glass and plastic in a bin at her Lafayette Park condo building.

That's it. No muss. No fuss. No driving to a recycling station.

Few in the Motor City enjoy such convenient recycling service, but residents in multi-unit buildings are bucking the longtime lack of curbside recycling in the city by setting up their own stations.

"It is completely community driven," Musilli says. "It was really easy."

The Leland Lofts condo association pays Detroit-based Recy-clean a small fee to come pick up recycling as often as twice a week. It's a move that makes recycling easier and more popular with residents, not to mention saving them significant time and money. The end result is that Recy-clean's service has doubled the amount of recycling coming from Leland Lofts residents and halved the number of trash pickups at the building.

A number of other residential, commercial and educational buildings throughout the city are also following suit. The growing list includes, Grinnell Place Lofts, Canfield Lofts, MOCAD, Music Hall, Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences, Nichols Elementary & Middle Schools and the Wayne County Community College District bookstores, among others helping the city's fledgling recycling initiative while saving money.

"The argument for doing it is really two fold," says Joel Landy, a 30-year Cass Corridor resident and developer of the Addison Apartments, Leland Lofts and 66 & 74 Charlotte Loft Apartments. "One is it lowers the Dumpster fee and two to know you’re doing something good for the environment."

Taking it out back

Leland Lofts residents decided to set up their own recycling pick-up service after several of them noticed each other trekking out to the city's permanent recycling center at 1335 Holden every Saturday. A meeting or two later and recycling started coming to them.

Canfield Lofts in Midtown went through a similar realization. Even though some of the residents were part of the train of people dropping off recycling every weekend, the building's six Dumpsters were overflowing with trash. To counter that the residents decided to kill two birds with one recycling bin.

One year ago the condo association commissioned pick-up recycling through Recy-clean. At the end of each week now the building's recycling bins are full while its Dumpsters have extra room. Not to mention the 50 some residents at Canfield Lofts have one less trip to make each weekend.

"It's a no brainer," says Randall Fogelman, president of the Canfield Loft Association. "The program is not expensive and it's good for the environment. That means it's not going into the (city's) incinerator and going into the air so we can breathe it back in."

Rules of attraction: Recycling

The social aspect of it also is what makes providing recycling services attractive to developers and business owners.

Recycling is historically a normal part of the lives for most of the yuppies, empty nesters, sinks and dinks moving into or working in the city. To many of them it's not about saving money or improving the logistics of trash pickup. It's about doing their part to make their environment a better place. Its one way residents take ownership of their community by doing their small part to improve their quality of life.

"All of us are earth conscious and environmentally friendly," says Lauren Rossi Harroun, an assistant administrator at MOCAD that helped set up the recycling program there. "It just seems like the thing to do."

And making it easier for people to do it makes a home more attractive to them. Developer Landy promotes in-house recycling as an amenity in his projects to help make them stand out. Recycling is listed between "well-insulated" and "new ceramic tile baths" in the half-page ad for his newly restore 66 & 74 Charlotte Loft Apartments development in Midtown.

"It's absolutely an attraction," Landy says. "A lot of the people moving downtown are socially aware and want those types of services.

Easy money

Recy-clean's program, which is not affiliated with the city waste removal service, costs $40 to empty the recycling bin at a building once a month. It's $25 per pick-up for bi-monthly pick-ups and $20 for weekly service. It's only available for businesses and multi-residence buildings.

For the most part, the program takes off once it's instituted in a building.

The more refuse that's recycled normally means less goes into the trash. For buildings that contract out trash service, like Leland Lofts, that means less dumpster emptying, lowering the building's trash-removal fee. Since the recycling service is cheaper than trash removal Leland Lofts saves more money the more it recycles. That means lower condo association fees for everyone.

Each person's recycling also equates to a few pennies when it's sold later on. Take that same amount of recycling from a bunch of people and it can turn into a nice little chunk of change. Recy-clean pays back that money to participating schools by subtracting it from the recycling fee.

"We get a lot of paper and the paper almost covers all of the costs of their recycling program," says Matt Naimi, Recy-clean's director of operations.

All for setting up a recycling bin out back. For businesses and schools, Recy-clean will help them set up smaller recycling bins throughout the building on top of the installing larger bin in the back. It can be done by simply calling Recy-clean at (313) 871-4000.

"We don't need a lot of space to set up," Naimi says. "We just ask that it's clean and sorted and we'll take it from there."


Matt Naimi, Recy-clean's Director of Operations

The Leland Lofts in Lafayette Park

Joel Landy in front of the Leland Lofts Recycling Bins


Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences

Newspaper Bin at Recy-clean's Warehouse on Holden

All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger

Read more articles by Jon Zemke.

Jon Zemke is a news editor with Model D and its sister publications, Metromode and Concentrate. He's also a small-scale real-estate developer and landlord in the greater downtown Detroit area.
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