Gainesville Tightens Up on Commercial Recycling

Civil Citations Now Possible for Businesses That Don’t Comply.

Gainesville and Alachua County require commercial recycling by law, but the requirements have had few teeth in the past. That’s changing somewhat, and more and more businesses and organizations are recycling, officials say.

The city updated its commercial recycling ordinance in June, empowering inspectors to issue civil citations to businesses that don’t comply with the law, says Steven Joplin, the City of Gainesville’s solid waste manager.

The new city requirements start with a warning. The first offense carries a penalty of $125, and the second offense $250. A third offense results in taking the case to court.

“The commission agreed with our position that it was time to start getting better results,” Joplin says. “We still take the attitude that we’re there to help people understand what they need to do and find ways to do it. We’re not trying to be the Gestapo.”

By December, the city had issued “warnings” to nine businesses, four of which came into compliance after the warnings, Joplin says.

Commercial recycling is crucial, with an estimated 60 percent of all waste coming from businesses, nonprofit organizations government, apartments and condominium communities, says Patrick Irby, the county’s recycling coordinator.

When you look at the county’s current overall recycling effort, you can see the glass as either half full or half empty.

From the half-full perspective, the county ranks second in the state, with 44 percent of the waste stream recycled, Irby says.

Getting complete data is impossible, as reporting of most commercial recycling is voluntary, Irby notes. Because of the voluntary reporting, commercial recycling probably is more extensive than is documented, according to Irby.

Large retailers routinely recycle cardboard and paper used in shipping, but they don’t report all of their recycling to the county, which compiles recycling reports, Irby says.

Joplin agrees. “Companies like Publix, Wal-Mart and Home Depot recycle a lot of cardboard that they bale and send to a regional recycling center and we never know about it,” he says. “If it doesn’t get recorded, it didn’t happen, as far as the state is concerned.”

Looking at the glass as half empty, the county is a long way from a state goal of recycling 75 percent of the waste stream by 2020.

Recycling from Soup to Nuts

Lay people think of recycling as reusing paper, metal and glass. However in the industry, recycled materials take many forms. For example, Wal-Mart has started composting its discarded produce, as do some other grocers, Joplin says.

And the state estimates that 37 percent of the county’s total recycling comes from yard waste and construction and demolition debris. Local company Bearded Brothers salvages various items from building deconstruction for reuse, Joplin notes.

But while separating your empty bottles at home has become habit, getting businesses and office-workers to similarly recycle hasn’t quite caught on. The county estimates that 70 percent of people living in single-family homes participate in recycling.

City and county governments can require all residents in urban areas to use WCA Waste Corp., the contracted hauler both governments use to pick up garbage and recyclables. “We justify it under our power to protect public health and safety,” Joplin says.

But unlike residential recycling, commercial recycling is tough to control, Irby says. Apartment and condominium communities pose some of the toughest recycling challenges, Joplin says.

“Nobody has them figured out,” he says. “There’s no way to force people in multi-family units to comply with recycling requirements.”

People living in relatively expensive apartments tend to get more involved in recycling than do people living in less expensive ones, Irby says.

Making recycling convenient at apartments and condos is important, Irby says. With that in mind, the county is providing recycling reusable plastic bags to apartment complexes. “It like having orange and blue bins,” he says. “We want to make it convenient.”

Some Businesses Embrace Recycling

Some apartment management companies go out of their way to recycle. Among them is Contemporary Management Concepts, which manages 18 properties with 2,500 apartments.

“We’re committed to improving our environment,” says President Sonia Fox. “When everyone works together, we can make the best use of our planet’s natural resources.”

The company spends about $27,000 annually on recycling—or little more than $10 per apartment, Fox says. “We reduce our garbage disposal cost, which, in turn, benefits us as well as our residents.”

The company provides separate recycling bins on each property for glass, newspapers, water bottles and aluminum cans. It recently added dumpsters for cardboard.

“Putting recycling containers on site makes it convenient for our residents to get involved, even those who may not have thought about it before,” Fox says.

Contemporary Management Concepts recycles Christmas trees, as well as carpet and padding that it replaces, Fox says. “We give life to items that used to be thrown away, saving energy and helping lower greenhouse gas emissions in the process.”

Parisleaf Printing and Design also has a strong environmental commitment.

The company generates virtually no waste, says co-owner Chad Paris. On the rare occasion that a printing job needs to be redone, the company gives the flawed prints to the customer for free. The company buys paper made of 45 percent recycled material and avoids paper that has a UV coating that prevents it from breaking down in landfills. Much of Parisleaf’s printing is done by a Montana company that generates all of its power with its own wind turbines.

For its efforts, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce honored Parisleaf with this year’s Commitment to the Environment Award. This commitment only makes sense, Paris says.

“We love the outdoors, and we want to do everything we can to protect it,” he says.

Making a Business of Recycling

Rod Ingram has a simple business: Recycling Services of America. He collects recyclables (mostly paper and cardboard) from businesses, binds it in bundles and sells the paper and cardboard to paper companies. He sells the few bottles, cans and plastic containers he collects to other local recyclers.

Increased teeth in city and county recycling laws hasn’t had any effect on his business, Ingram says. Still, he expects the state requirement of recycling 75 percent of the state’s waste by 2020 to bring about some increased business.

The company’s charges are straightforward. They’re based on the cost of picking up the recyclables, starting at $20 a month for a 33-gallon container. The money he collects for the paper and cardboard offsets the cost of processing the material, Ingram says.

People can drop off office paper at the company’s site, 2874 NE First Terrace, behind BMW of Gainesville, for free.

Helen Warren, a real estate agent with Prudential Trend Realty, does that regularly. “I’m glad to drop off the paper from the office,” she says. “You’ve got to make recycling easy for people.”

It’s not only paper and cardboard, as a business might encounter scrap metals in its trash stream.  CMC Recycling (no relation to CMC Apartments) buys all types of metal at its location at 1508 NW 55th Place, says Florida Regional Director Stan Young. “If it’s metal, we’ll take it,” he says. Items it handles includes old signs, car doors and fenders, doors, windows, siding and pipe, Young says.

Cost Varies from Product to Product

Almost always, the cost of recycling exceeds the payment for the recycled material. “It’s the cost of collection that kills you,” Irby says.

The market for recyclables varies from one part of the country to another. “We have a relatively good market for paper here because there are paper mills nearby,” Irby says. “Our market for glass is poor, but there’s a high demand for glass in Silicon Valley because it can be used in computers.”

Still, there are some uses for recycled glass here, such as for granules on shingles and sandpaper, Joplin says.

Businesses can offset some or most of the cost of recycling by reducing the size of their garbage containers because they’re not throwing out as much, Irby says. “That’s a point I’m constantly making to businesses,” he says.

Joplin looks at recycling holistically, noting that providing outdated items to food banks and selling used furniture and clothing are all forms of recycling. “During World War II, the country recycled rags and many other things because of shortages of raw materials,” he says.

“We’re not a bunch of tree-huggers,” Joplin says. “The city enacted the ordinance, and we’re enforcing it.”

 

Related posts