Last month North Park EcoDistrict collaborated with San Diego City’s Environmental Services Department (ESD) to perform a survey and better understand low reported rates of recycling and composting in North Park.
One could expect that in such a progressive and vibrant neighborhood, the rate of business recycling would be high and maybe even close to 100%. Well, it’s not. In fact, according to the data provided by the ESD, only 27% businesses in North Park show up in a recycling database (data gathered from all recycling haulers in San Diego). Even with understanding of some potential data errors and reporting issues 27% is low and concerning.
The survey conducted by the EcoDistrict team and ESD analyzed 43 ‘store front’ businesses in the neighborhood – 41 one of them reported recycling!
So how do we begin to understand the difference in findings?
Well, while 20 of the 43 surveyed business reported that they use their own recycling bins, 15 reported sharing bins with other business (this means they won’t show up in ESD database) and one person reported to recycle business waste at home (thumbs up for commitment!).
Most of the businesses reported that setting up recycling was relatively easy and that the learning curve was well worth it. Some businesses reported that recycling came with the rental lease, which made things even easier.
But let’s talk about the challenges, why is it difficult for an average small business owner to set up recycling in San Diego? Seems like there are challenges with both internal issues and outside factors.
Not enough space available for recycling bins came up as one of the challenges. Even though it is difficult to change built infrastructure, business owners can still address this in at least two ways. One way to address ‘too small’ bins issue is to reduce the amount of produced waste to start with. One upfront way to reduce waste produced to is request less packaging when ordering products and supplies. Once the business produces less waste they can explore a ‘split’ bins option. Split bins can fit both recycled content and trash.
Another issue that came up in survey answers has to do with the open market policy for San Diego waste haulers. This means that business owner has to choose a vendor for each waste stream (trash, recycling, composting), set up and manage an account and pay the fee for each service. Those who set up all services with one hauler will notice financial discounts and other benefits. However, regardless of the financial incentives business owners perceive the time to do research and set things up as an obstacle to recycling. When running a business, time is priceless! Long and complicated recycling set up process pushes waste management to the end of the priority list.
Finally, business owner brought up internal issues and lack of business level resources, such as: employee training, customer training and cost of the bins. ESD can provide support with the education part of the problem. To schedule a free consultation contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So why should the business owner address all of those above? The obvious reasons of environmental mindfulness and regional benefits are important, but are challenging to quantify unless they directly affect the bottom line.
In case of waste management there is a lot of $$$ to be saved. On average, the cost of recycling is ½ the price of trash. That means that whatever you divert from the black bin to the blue bin will cost you half the price. If you lower the tonnage in both bins you will reduce your cost altogether. Composting is a little trickier and depends on few more factors but it can also yield financial benefits.
North Park EcoDistrict’s Summer Challenge is to make recycling in North Park more accessible and to encourage composting among local restaurants. Stay tuned for our new educational materials and other info!
Do you recycle or compost? Do you want to share your story? Email us at: email@example.com