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A new regional initiative gives Northwest Arkansas businesses an opportunity to reduce trash bills and create smaller environmental footprints.

The Benton County and Boston Mountain solid waste management districts will provide free waste audits for interested small businesses in Benton, Washington and Madison counties, and the goal is to complete more than 100 audits by March 1, 2023.

The audits are part of a larger effort by the districts and the Northwest Arkansas Council to coordinate, collaborate and grow the region’s recycling systems over the coming years.

“Providing waste audits to businesses in our area is a crucial step in reducing waste, finding cost savings, and connecting businesses to more sustainable disposal options that suit their needs,” said Justin Taylor, an environmental educator at the Boston Mountain Solid Waste Management District who will be performing the district’s audits.

During the audits, solid waste district employees will provide a breakdown of what kinds of materials the business disposes, as well as recommendations for how to generate less waste and recycle more. Those changes could lead to reduced trash disposal bills for the companies.

“While the audit service was previously available, this is the first deliberate and collaborative push to encourage large-scale participation,” said Dan Holtmeyer, recycling program director at the Northwest Arkansas Council.

An audit conducted at Black Apple Hard Cider in 2018 found that well over half of the business’ trash could be recycled or composted, co-founder Leo Orpin said. One big chunk was used tea leaves, which balance the sweetness in several of the company’s brews.

The company reduced its dumpster size and got a recycling container with a more relaxed pickup schedule. The Boston Mountain district also provided indoor and patio recycling bins. Black Apple also connected with the Rogers company Food Loops, which provided compostable drink cups, accepted glass for recycling, and took the tea leaves each week for composting. By implementing these small changes, the company was able to decrease costs and produce less waste.

Businesses like Orpin’s want to recycle, he said; they just need the right information and for it to work financially.

“This is something our region really wants,” Orpin said. “If I can be a good steward for the planet and save a little money, it’s a no-brainer.”

All sectors and types of small businesses are welcome. For businesses in Washington and Madison counties, reach the Boston Mountain district at recycle@bmswd.com or 479-846-3005. In Benton County, email clerk@bentoncountyrecycles.org or call 479-795-0751.