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Council unanimously votes in new recycling code, affecting tenants and renters

This past month, the Pittsburgh City Council unanimously passed changes to municipal waste code 619 that will primarily affect renters and landlords in Pittsburgh. The changes will go into effect this summer. According to the office of Erika Strassburger, who spearheaded the changes, the “ultimate goal is to make it easier for people to recycle and hopefully increase the amount of material that is recycled.”

Among the changes made, new provisions now require landlords to “provide both waste and recycling storage containers for their tenants, these must be watertight with close fitting lids,” and to provide Pittsburgh specific recycling literature “to tenants as part of leases,” said Moira Egler, Councilperson Strassburger’s Chief of Staff, in an interview with The Tartan.

In addition to these changes, violations of the new waste code will now result in notices being sent to both the tenant and landlord and the mandate to recycle will be made more explicit in the code itself.

Small recycling changes have been clarified, as stated in the Pittsburgh Public Works waste regulations website

These include the ability to place recycling out in blue translucent bags and the codification of set out times as being “no sooner than 6 p.m. the day prior to collection, no later than 6 a.m. day of collection,” and bin retrieval times as being “by 10 p.m. the day of collection.”

The legislation was an effort made in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Environmental Services and with the office of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. It passed unanimously in the council with few amendments.

The only pushback on the legislation came from a collection of residents that raised concerns about the code’s initial bin retrieval time, which was that bins had to be removed from side streets no later than 7:00 p.m. Some residents, like those working odd hours or with afternoon and night shifts, would be negatively affected by this set time.

Addressing these concerns, the latest possible retrieval time was pushed back to 10:00 p.m. in the now-passed legislation. Previously, the legislation did not enforce a specified removal time.

In response to the prospect of rent increases due to the mandate that landlords provide waste bins, Egler stated that the office “[hasn’t] heard concerns” about such an issue, and that “the containers are pretty reasonably priced.” Egler then noted that the mandate is specifically for “apartment buildings with five and fewer units,” and that these changes are “common sense provisions that are not a hardship in any way but are practical in keeping these properties clean as they can be problematic, especially in places like Oakland.”
The office of Councilperson Strassburger also consulted with the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation, who have “a lot of contact with landlords,” to ensure that the legislation was a “pretty reasonable ask for landlords,” Egler stated.

Egler is confident with how the Pittsburgh Department of Public Works is poised to undertake what might be an increase in recycling rates. She noted that “[the Pittsburgh Department of Public Works] is perfectly capable of taking on more… we have a pretty extensive fleet of trucks.”

The code also clarifies something that has always existed but was once “kind of buried,” in the code: that Pittsburghers are indeed required to recycle. This legislation makes this mandate far more explicit to residents.

Egler admits that this code update is a “first basic step” towards a more eco-friendly Pittsburgh, and is in line with what District 8’s Councilperson Strassburger, a longtime advocate for environmentalism, ran on. “[It is a] really important first step to accomplishing some larger zero waste goals [we] have,” Egler said.