Monday, April 14, 2008

Small Business Recycling is Needed, But How?

A few weeks ago, the ProJo featured an article about the RI DEM finally practicing what it preaches and hopping on board the recycling bandwagon at their offices. While that’s somewhat humorous, the article does go on to give an update on the state’s renewed effort to get businesses to comply with current recycling laws.

That got me thinking: How does a small business here in Sakonnet actually go about complying with that law? If I’m looking at the right one (and I might not be), all businesses regardless of their total number of employees are required to separate out their recyclables from their trash. The kicker comes if you have 50 or more employees – then you are required to submit a yearly source reduction and recycling plan to the state.

According to the article, 60 percent of the 700,000 tons of waste that go to the Central Landfill each year is generated by businesses. That’s a lot. And I’m willing to bet that a good chunk of that could be recycled in one way, shape, or form. From office paper to bottles/cans to toner to e-waste, there is quite a bit that could find new life via the recycling bin.

But the challenge is making it easy and economically feasible to actually recycle. Larger business might have more resources to throw into making this happen, but small businesses are maxed out with multi-tasking and budget squeezing as it is. I grew up in my family’s small business and can speak first hand to that. Even nowadays, I know people who bring home paper or cans or bottles from their offices to throw in their home bins because they can’t stand to see the stuff stay in the trash.

But as with many things in business, there are both hard and soft benefits to any action. And when the two can find middle ground, it usually indicates a win-win situation.

Take for instance recycling: If given a cost-effective solution for recycling those items typically found in the workplace, the benefits of reducing your trash removal costs could be justified. Now, once you make that part of your business’ M.O., you can tack on the ability to market yourself as an eco-friendly business. As more and more consumers align their values with the purchase behaviors, this begins to bode well for your shop as you can leverage it to boost traffic and sales.

Back to my original question, though. How do you make it viable for small businesses to recycle? Taking a queue from the insurance industry, one business alone may not be able to get the best rate from a recycling vendor, but a group of businesses under the guise of a small business association might drive a more attractive rate. So, does anyone know if we have any kind of small business association here in Sakonnet?

Any small business owners out there willing to share their stories about trying to make recycling work for them?

If all else fails, I guess there is the potential bottle-bill-as-recycling-catalyst to fall back on…

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