The Expense of Mandatory Recycling Laws
Nick Johnson, CEO of Waste Experts, reviews the impact that recycling mandates can make on your bottom line.
Over the past several years mandatory recycling laws have become more and more prevalent in certain areas of the country.
- October 1st, 2012 the City of Austin passed a mandatory recycling law that calls for all commercial business to have a recycling program. Phase two of that program is being implemented this year, which will phase in an organic disposal program for commercial business operating in city limits.
- January 17th, 2012, California makes it mandatory for all commercial businesses that generate four cubic yards of trash, per week, to implement a recycling program.
- Spring 2014, Minneapolis implements a mandatory recycling law for commercial businesses operating in city limits.
- October 14th, 2016, California passes a mandatory organics law, which will be phased in over the next several years.
In theory these laws sound like a great idea, recycling is good for the environment and for the landfills, so if we have more recycling then that is a good thing, which it is. The problem is that these laws fail to take into consideration that one size fits all recycling programs don’t work for every business. These laws fail to consider the following:
- The business owner that does not have room for a second recycling container due to enclosure restraints, or county ordinances that do not allow container to be outside an enclosure.
- Just because a business is a restaurant or food operation, does not mean that fifty percent of their waste is recyclable or organics.
- The cost to re-train staff to implement a recycling program can be prohibitive.
- The cost of the actual recycling program can actually make ones waste management bottom line increase.
The California mandatory recycling law requires that any business that produces four cubic yards of trash per week must implement a recycling program. This means that a business with a four yard container going twice a week has to add a corresponding recycling program. However, this particular business only has room for one trash container in their enclosure, and the county ordinance states that businesses cannot have a container outside of their enclosed area. The business owner must then spend money to re-design the enclosure to fit a second container, or not implement a recycling program and face the threat of fines for not being compliant with the law.
Another area where these laws fall short in practice is the operating assumption that up to fifty percent of trash is recyclable material, and/or organics. While this is true for a majority of businesses, it is not true for every single business. Adding a recycling program at a cost of $400.00 a month, and then finding out that the trash service can only be reduced by one pickup, for a reduction of $200.00 a month means that this business is now facing a net monthly increase of $200.00 ($2400 a year) to their waste management bottom line.
Another unintended consequence of these laws is that as soon as they are passed the current trash vendor starts sending out flyers stating that “recycling is now mandatory, please contact us to set up your mandatory recycling program,” or something along those lines. We know that at Waste Experts, because we have actually received these flyers with some of our client’s mailing. The unaware customer that receives this correspondence and only adds a recycling container at a cost of $200.00 a month to be “compliant,” and does not offset the cost with a decrease in their trash service, is also looking at a net increase in their waste management bottom line.
Unfortunately, mandatory means that the programs are mandatory; however, there are loopholes in these laws that can help the customer avoid having to implement a recycling plan, or, at the minimum, put off implementing for a year. An example of this is that the California organics laws is gradually phased in, so if your business does not meet the year one standard, you can then put off implementation for an additional year. Of course if it makes business sense to implement said program then the customer can proceed with it now, instead of waiting. This is where the expert staff at Waste Experts can help. We will review your locations and let you know if they need to implement a program now, can delay for a while, or if it makes sense to implement a recycling program now. If you are concered about the impact of mandatory recycling laws on your waste management bottom line, click here to find out how to get a no obligation review of your services.