How can Businesses Encourage Recycling?
Question: How can businesses encourage recycling and what can they do?
It all depends on the material you’re talking about, and on whether you’re talking about recycling in the store or if you’re talking about goods that are coming out of a store and going into someone’s home. So, I mean it is kind of hard to answer that question without getting into those specifics. Something like pizza boxes which are corrugated cardboard actually can be recycled if they’re not heavily soiled. If you’re getting into questions of different types of plastic takeout containers that’s a very different and much more complicated subject. Certainly the consistent provision of recycling containers with in stores can can go a long way and and I haven’t seen as much of that as you would expect given the maturity of recycling in this country.
There are couple of stores that have shown a true commitment to the recycling composting ethos. You can find them in well labeled areas in stores and you can also tell in the way and the products they buy that are environmentally friendly, reduced packaging. But, for some other retailers, there has been somewhat of a “Walmart effect” on them, where through their purchasing power they’ve had a huge impact on some of the ways the upstream manufacturer developed products. I think merchants do have a lot of power. May not be the pull that Walmart has but through the products that they put on their shelves, they can exercise some ability and influence over the producers.
I think this is a tough issue. For instance, when you consider a gas station, it has waste containers up for the public to use and the public is entering the station from all along the interstate from all different areas. The public has different ideas of what they’re going to put in those containers. Even what they bring can be fast food, it can be oil containers, it can be all sorts of things in the area. Pizza boxes or fast food wrappers or whatever they may be you need a certain volume to really have the economy of scale to make something work. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pursue and look at these things and there may very well maybe answers, but it takes extra work and is more difficult than the other things we have tackled so far.
I really like the idea that I heard at a meeting a few years ago, which was letting people know at the very beginning when they are about to consume an item about what they should do with it at the end. In this way, they’ll be better prepared to deal with the waste and I think it would be really great if when you purchase yogurt at a store and when you chose it off the shelf there was information – not detailed information but even just a reminder – that the yogurt cup might be recycled oil at your house when you’re not enjoying it.
I think more information about stuff that people buy but might not be thinking about – like those in boxes – might help remember that those can be it put in their mixed paper recycling. Just at the point of consumption to remind people that what they’re buying is gonna be a waste product eventually and they can help improve the system.
Author, Recycling Reconsidered: the Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action
International Vice President, Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA)