Recycling programs and discussions often focus on what you can do at home. But there’s a world of opportunity on the commercial side, whether that’s simply a business recycling its own waste or joining the recycling industry itself.
On Dec. 14, NWA Recycles convened several local leaders in commercial recycling for a virtual Zoom panel as part of the Onward Ozarks speaker series. More than 100 viewers tuned in to hear City of Fayetteville environmental educator Heather Ellzey, eSCO Processing & Recycling VP Joe Tucker, Pack Rat Outdoor Center Sustainability Director Faebyan Whittle, and Food Loops founder Tom Rohr share their insights.
The big takeaway: Northwest Arkansas has many of the basic ingredients for successful commercial recycling are present, at least in some parts of the region, and there’s plenty of room for growth and improvement.
One key to success is partnerships, Rohr said — Food Loops, which provides food waste pickup service for offices and restaurants around the region, partners with more than half a dozen other organizations, including Fayetteville as the destination for its food scraps.
ESCO, a major electronics reseller and recycler based in Rogers, started out as a ship-recycling outfit that expanded into e-waste through a contract with Walmart and now works with solid waste districts throughout the state and buyers around the country. And Pack Rat collaborates with Fayetteville, MoistureShield and other area organizations to not only recycle as much as possible in its own operations but to help others do the same.
“To have markets, we have to work together,” Rohr said.
There are, of course, also financial and other considerations for a recycling business. Fayetteville makes it easy to sign up for commercial collections and save money on trash fees, Ellzey said. That’s not true in every city. But it’s not just money to keep in mind. Pack Rat has gone from quietly diverting most of its waste to spreading the word deliberately, Whittle said, which helps build public awareness while aiding marketing.
“People do want to make the right choice, and people do want to support green businesses,” Whittle said.
Another crucial ingredient to commercial recycling is transparency — showing that recyclables really are being recycled and sharing that progress with participating businesses and the wider public, Tucker said.
Finally, there’s demand for convenient and affordable commercial recycling services around Northwest Arkansas. Food Loops started out focused on food waste but now collects recyclable bottles and cans as well because so many customers asked for it. The company has diverted literally tons of waste, including nearly all waste produced by major events like the local LPGA tournament.
Rohr tells his employees: “Be joyful that you’re making a difference every day.”
Watch the full Onward Ozarks event: