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Recycling System for Apartment Buildings

The Issue

Are you also living in a condominium or apartment? And does it frustrate you that there’s no recycling system in place? Well, that’s exactly how I used to feel – until I did something about it.

Our Approach

In only 2 weeks – and in collaboration with the Management Office, the Cleaners and another resident – we managed to install a complete recycling system on each of the 23 floors of the condo with 92 apartments – and at a cost of less than RM8 (US$2.50) per apartment.

See recycling system design, costs and waste collection rates here:

The successful implementation of the recycling system was thanks to the following approach:

  1. The implementation to be driven by enthusiastic resident(s), who facilitates the project in collaboration with the Building Management and the Cleaners

  2. Design the system according to the wishes of the Cleaners and let them keep all the pocket money from selling the recyclables. The monetary incentive of the Cleaners is the key to a successful operation of the system.

  3. Design the system, so it is easy for the residents to recycle

  4. Consider whether it is necessary to involve the Resident Committee or not, as this committee (in my experience) sometimes has a few members that have too much time at their hand and who have nothing better to do than complain and make things complicated. In our case, we did not involve the Resident Committee.

Since 2009, the system has been operating successfully and has more than doubled the recycling rate for paper, and quadrupled the recycling rate of aluminum cans:

Our Findings

The poster below lists our main findings and lessons learned. One of the interesting observations were, that it is important to label on the bins individually, so there is no doubt about where to throw the recyclables. Moreover, it is important that all bins have a lid, as people otherwise might "take the easy way out" and throw all the trash in the bin without a lid. Or even easier for the residents, all the bins should have no lid, insofar that is acceptable from a smell perspective.

One year after the recycling system installation, I conducted a survey (27 responses from residents), which showed that more than 90% of the residents find the recycling system easy to use and think that the system enhances the attractiveness of the condo. This was true for both Malaysian and non-Malaysian residents.

As such, the recycling system has been a win-win-win-win solution, because:

  • The residents win, because they want to recycle and it has been made easy for them within the confines of the existing trash room that they are already using.

  • The building management and owners win, because the recycling system enhances the attractiveness of the condominium at a cost of less than RM8 (US$2.50) per apartment

  • The cleaners win, because they earn extra pocket-money from selling the recyclables, which are now sorted at source, namely residents throwing recyclables in the right bins. NB. Previously, the cleaners would sieve through the general trash and take out the recyclables, which is a common and unhygienic practice in Malaysia.

  • The environment wins, as the recycling rate has more than doubled

It has been as really positive experience to facilitate the implementation of this recycling system. I hope that you – the reader – will replicate the system where you live.


The author would like to extend a big thanks to fellow resident, Matthias Gelber, who kick-started this condo-wide recycling system, in other words, a big upscaling from my initial recycling system initiative, which was only for the 4 apartments on my floor.

Matthias Gelber did a short video of the recycling system here:


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