Commercial recycling

Stephen Kurutz is just as concerned about protecting the environment as the next guy, and he wanted to start start recycling at his Islamorada resort. But as a businessman, he was also worried about his company’s bottom line.

So when Kurutz, managing member of Drop Anchor Resort and Marina, 84959 Overseas Highway, found out last fall that he would have to pay a fee each month for his waste collector to pick up recyclables from his resort property, he was hesitant to set out those bins.

Bruce Williams, general manager of Onyx Waste Services, which serves the village of Islamorada, was confident Kurutz would reap the benefits once he started recycling at Drop Anchor.

“[In Islamorada] a cubic yard of waste equals approximately $73, but a cubic yard of recyclables equals about $57,” Williams said. “So (Kurutz) will see a small decrease in how much he pays.”

After several months of recycling, however, Kurutz said he has not seen the promised savings — but he’s not blaming Onyx. He applauded his staff and guests for diverting plenty of bottles, cans and cardboard from the trash cans to the recycle bins, but said he has still hesitated to downsize his four-yard trash container to a less expensive two-yard container.

“It’s my own fault that I haven’t gone to a smaller container yet,” Kurutz said. “I’m not willing to take the chance, because as soon as I do, I’m going to have a whole lot of trash some weekend and the smaller container won’t be able to handle it. I sure don’t want overflow.”

Greg Sullivan, district manager for Waste Management Inc., the company that collects waste and recyclables in Key West and other parts of the Keys, says recycling can save businesses money.

“Recycling offsets the amount of garbage collection [a business] has to pay for,” Sullivan said. “It’s definitely cheaper for them to recycle.”

One business that has experienced savings as a result of recycling is The Gardens Hotel in Key West. Manager Cindy DeRocher said since beefing up its recycling effort last year, The Gardens has reduced its monthly waste collection fees by about $300.

“It’s been worth it to us, absolutely,” DeRocher said. “We’ve been able to cut back on the amount of trash because we’re recycling more, and because we’re reducing the amount of disposables we use to begin with.”

DeRocher said her staff used to fill five 90-gallon trash bins for pickup twice each week, and three 30-gallon recycle bins for once weekly pickup. Now, they’ve increased their recycling collections to twice a week and they are down to only three trash bins.

Johnny and Barbara Maddox, who own Porky’s Bayside Barbeque Restaurant and Captain Pip’s Marina and Hideaway, mile marker 47.5 in Marathon, are also fervent recyclers at their businesses.

Barbara Maddox said the task of recycling “is not really a big deal” and doesn’t add much to her staff’s workload.

“It’s really no more effort than taking out the trash,” Maddox said.

Williams said that items placed in recycle bins must be relatively clean and made of material that is recyclable. He said he is available to help any business owner in his service area (Islamorada) train staff to manage their fledgling recycling programs.

After all, in addition to the environmental benefit, it’s in his company’s best interest to do so.

“It costs me less to dispose of recycling than it does waste, so of course we would like for people to recycle more,” Williams said.

In spite of losing money, Kurutz said he’s going to continue recycling at Drop Anchor.

“Sure it’s costing me more to recycle, but I’m environmentally concerned, too,” he said. “That’s the dilemma.”

First, reduce

To have the most positive impact on the environment and the bank account, DeRocher recommends that, as a first step, business owners look for ways to reduce their consumption of both recyclable and nonrecyclable goods. For example, DeRocher buys environmentally friendly cleaners and laundry detergent in bulk containers that her local supplier takes back and refills when they are empty.

“That exchange program has had a big impact on how much we’re throwing away or recycling,” DeRocher said. “The more you can eliminate from those bins, the better.”

Maddox echoes DeRocher’s recommendation to cut back on packaging by buying in bulk containers or participating in an exchange program. Her supplier delivers cooking oil by pumping it into a large receptacle on-site, eliminating the individual plastic jugs that Maddox had to recycle in the past.

When guests check into The Gardens they are given complimentary cool-cups with the hotel logo printed on them. Kate Miano, president of hotel, said staff used to provide bottle after bottle of spring water to guests throughout the day, but when they learned that the plastic bottles had to be trucked to the mainland for recycling, they decided to offer the long-lasting cups instead.

“People are thrilled to get them,” Miano said. “Everyone is really behind it. The cups are theirs to keep, and hopefully they will continue to use them at home.”

Karin Wolfe, volunteer for the nonprofit Green Living and Energy Education in Islamorada, wishes more Keys businesses would voluntarily eliminate the use of plastic bags and instead offer cloth totes for customers to purchase.

“It’s great advertising if they print their logo on the bag,” Wolfe said. “It’s something people would keep and use again and again, and they would always remember where they got it.”

Wolfe said she would support any county or municipal effort to emulate San Francisco’s ban on plastic bags — especially because it would help protect the marine environment.

“We would be forward thinking by taking such a positive step as that, and it’s totally doable,” Wolfe said.

Why it matters

  • Taxpayers spent almost $7.5 million for waste and recycling disposal in fiscal year 2007.
  • More than 240,000 tons of garbage were generated in the county in 2005, which is the latest year for which data is available.
  • Trash is hauled to Broward County, where it’s incinerated at a waste-to-energy plant. Recycling is also taken to a Broward facility. Both are run by Waste Management.
  • According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, commercial recycling can make a significant impact on the environment by diverting vast amounts of waste from the nation’s landfills and incinerators each year. The EPA estimates that the commercial sector generates 35 percent to 45 percent of America’s municipal solid waste.
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