Lakewood OH
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Recycling waste generated by businesses; discussions worth having

Driving down Lorain Road, I imagine all the dumpsters behind all the businesses full of recyclable materials that are not going to be recycled. The same thing goes for every other busy road, shopping center or strip mall.

I’m realistic; I don’t expect that every single piece of paper or bottle that can be recycled will be, but I do hope that until recycling is as efficient as possible, cities and residents continue to make improvements rather than settle for what’s viewed as good enough.

Household recycling has come a long way, especially since separate bins provided by either cities or Republic Waste Services make it just as easy as throwing waste away. Though, larger items like furniture or old electronics that can be donated or dropped off at designated locations still sit beside the bins, proving that most people are unlikely to participate in waste reduction if they have to go out of their way to achieve it.

Talking to a friend who works at a Fairview Park business about how much paper and plastic  gets discarded simply because it comes from a business rather than a household, we both had a lot of questions, but few answers.

She said her work dumpster is constantly full of cardboard boxes that could easily be picked up by passing trucks.

So why would the city pay to collect recycling from each individual residence when some businesses produce as much garbage as an entire street or block?

One answer I can come up with is that there is so much waste that  trucks would have to run more often, requiring more labor and fuel.

Still, having worked in the food service industry, at a busy Westlake restaurant and bar, I know how many bottles alone are tossed into the dumpster  —  hundreds and hundreds of them each weekend night — and I’ve always found it unsettling. Throwing those stuffed-full garbage bags into the dumpster always felt wrong.

Maybe, if my assumption is correct and the cities or the companies they outsource to can’t handle the amount of recycling that  businesses produce, there should be an incentive, such as tax breaks, for business owners who go out of their way to recycle on their own or, at the very least, community meetings to establish the best way for businesses to eliminate waste.

Another restaurant I worked at just after graduating from Kent State University threw away massive amounts of recyclables. When I complained to the owner that he should do something about it, he told me he wasn’t going to put garbage in his car every other day and drive it to a recycling plant. I don’t blame him, but I do think he’d be a lot more willing to reduce his waste if he had more options.

There are business owners who see the value in taking a proactive approach to recycling, as they get money back for doing so. Another friend told me his bosses do go out of their way to recycle all the boxes that come through the North Olmsted store.

That there are so many questions here, I’m going to start researching and gathering material for a long-form piece on the subject. So, any business owners or employees who either want to learn more about what options there are or voice their concerns should contact me at nicohenness@gmail.com.

 

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