Recycling and Your Business:
A Little Effort Can Go a Long Way
Article by Lora Miller, Director of Governmental Affairs & Public Relations
No one should disagree that recycling is good for the environment. Many people recycle at home and many more would do so if it was more convenient for them. Curbside recycling programs have done a good job of improving the rate of recycling in our state, however, Ohio still lags behind most other states.
According to a March 2021 report by Eunomia, “The 50 States of Recycling,” Ohio’s common containers and packing materials (CCPM) recycling rank of approximately 27% puts us at 44 out of 50 states. Rankings like ours get the attention of policy makers, and not just the progressive types. There are both Democrats and Republicans who would like to see Ohio achieve reduced landfill disposal through higher recycling rates. Unfortunately, the most common approach is proposing a container deposit law or deposit-return system (DRS), which “requires a minimum refundable deposit on beer, soft drink, and other beverage containers in order to ensure a high rate of recycling or reuse,” according to BottleBill.org.
The Eunomia report claims that eight of the ten highest recycling states have a mandated DRS law, with seven of the ten highest recyclers imposing high landfill disposal fees. Both of these methods of improving recycling rates prove costly and burdensome to consumers and businesses. Proponents of mandates and fees prefer them to education efforts, arguing that the latter is not as effective as the former, and they have garnered the attention of members of the majority party in the Ohio legislature.
Almost all, if not all national retailers and many other large companies have made corporate environmental sustainability (CES) one of their top priority goals and have incorporated it into their mission statements. Reducing waste, energy use, and carbon emissions, preserving natural resources and improving the “circular economy” through recycling are all part of their sustainability efforts. While recycling is only one aspect of CES, it is a very important one.
The benefits to businesses who prioritize recycling are multiple, including:
- Discourages government mandates. The more businesses that voluntarily recycle, the less likely that policy makers will be inclined to impose intrusive and expensive mandates upon them. Ohio’s recycling rates must improve, meaning the participation of more and more businesses is necessary in order to prevent government intervention.
- Reduces operational costs. When recyclables are separated out into their own stream, trash dumpsters won’t fill up as fast. It can ultimately result in using a smaller dumpster, reducing the frequency of pickups or both. Such changes will lower the costs of services and help a company’s bottom line on a regular basis.
- Improves sustainability. Recycling helps protect the environment by diverting these materials away from landfills and repurposing them. Recyclables that are sent to the dump generate greenhouse gases that affect our atmosphere.
- Elevates company image. Being eco-conscious is trendy, and consumers are taking note of which businesses in their community are doing their part. Many consumers have a desire to support local storefronts that are committed to bettering the environment and responsibly sourcing and disposing of materials.
- Increases employee participation. When searching for jobs, people look for more than just a place to work. They look for a company that shares the same values as their own and recycling is a great way to show it. Businesses should educate their employees on how reducing their waste is beneficial and how to properly do so. It’s a feel-good way to get people involved and boost morale at a business.
So what are the steps to take to create a workplace recycling program?
- Choose a Recycling Coordinator. This person will be in charge of organizing, promoting, supporting and monitoring the program, including the collection and drop-off schedule.
- Decide what you will recycle. The most commonly recycled items in an office are: paper, including copy paper, newspapers, magazines, and mixed paper; cardboard; glass bottles and jars; rigid plastic products (no films such as plastic bags or dry cleaning bags); and metal containers, including tin, aluminum and steel cans.
- Find the closest materials recovery facility (MRF). Each county is served by a Solid Waste Management District (SWMD). You can find the website for your local SWMD using this interactive map. There you will find information on where your recyclables can be delivered. Designate a person who is responsible for drop-off of recyclables.
- Obtain recycling containers. You should have one recycling container for every trash container in your business space, making sure each recycling container is similar in size to the respective trash container.
- Make sure employees are informed, educated and motivated. Focus on emphasizing what materials are accepted and what are not. Communicate where they can find containers, familiarize them with the signage, and discuss any other protocols such as not bagging recyclables (an almost universal requirement of service providers). Your SWMD may offer a toolkit, webinars and other resources for educating employees.
After you have created your workplace recycling program, help promote recycling in Ohio by supporting Keep Ohio Beautiful (KOB), the state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. KOB’s mission is to empower Ohio communities to take greater responsibility for improving our local environment through litter prevention, beautification, community greening, waste reduction and recycling. Becoming a KOB member sends a message that your company cares. As a business member of KOB, you will join other Ohioans and businesses that support the many statewide and local projects aimed at improving and beautifying our state and communities. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, monetary contributions are tax deductible for federal income tax purposes. Access the KOB Corporate Sponsorship Packet and become a member today.