FAYETTEVILLE -- Companies interested in recycling waste from their businesses, but in need of information on how to do it, are the target of business recycling audits offered by Northwest Arkansas solid waste districts.
Justin Taylor, program coordinator and environmental educator with the Boston Mountain Solid Waste District, said the district has offered the audits for several years but is trying to increase the reach of the program as part of a larger effort to boost recycling in Northwest Arkansas being undertaken in conjunction with the Northwest Arkansas Council.Gallery: Recycling at Springdale's Black Apple
Taylor said the solid waste district did between 20 and 25 business recycling audits in the years he has been involved. He said with the additional emphasis on recycling, the short-term goal is to do work with 25 businesses by spring 2022.
"It's going to take some buy-in from the businesses and some outreach on our part, but I think it's doable," he said.
Taylor said the business recycling audits typically involve gathering information from a business over a typical period of operations detailing the volume of waste generated, then breaks the total down further by different waste products.
Two businesses that recently participated in the audit program are Encompass Health and Rehabilitation Hospital in Fayetteville and Black Apple Hard Cider in Springdale, he said.
In the report the district compiled for Encompass Health, the district found the largest portion of trash by volume was food waste, including items prepared in bulk from the kitchen such as oatmeal, mashed potatoes, spaghetti and leftovers from canned vegetables. Food waste was 44% of the total volume.
The report found "other waste" and cardboard were the second- and third-largest categories. The other waste category included personal patient care material such as gauze pads, garments and tubing.
Cardboard accounted for 37% of the waste generated by the hospital for the time of the audit.
According to the report, the information gathered represented about a half of one day's waste generated by the hospital. Projected out over a year, the audit found the hospital would generate about 218,000 pounds of waste, including about 106,000 pounds of food waste and 49,000 pounds of cardboard.
If all of the food waste were composted and all cardboard and cans recycled, the audit said the waste stream would be reduced about 73%. The report provided contact information for the food waste composting programs at Fayetteville and Food Recycling Solutions and added other recycling, including cardboard, bottles and cans, can be done through sorting material and placing them in proper dumpsters or bins for collection.
James "Cody" Newton heads up the "Green Team" at the hospital. Newton said the Fayetteville hospital is an 80-bed facility with around 100 employees and has about 65 patients at any given time.
The hospital is still in the early stages of evaluating the audit and implementing additional recycling measures, Newton said. The projections for recycling at the hospital exceeded his expectations.
"I was expecting there would be some potential for recycling," Newton said. "I thought that if we could get up to 50% of our waste being recycled, that would be really good. When they said 73%, that was really exciting and really encouraging."
Newton said Encompass Health is interested in recycling and reuse from an environmental perspective but said the audit also showed recycling can save the business money. If it could reduce waste by 73%, as the audit report stated, the business likely wouldn't need a second dumpster for trash because the volume of trash would be greatly reduced, the report stated.
The commercial composting service offered by Fayetteville offers three pick-ups per week for a monthly cost of $15.05, according to the city's website. The monthly cost of a trash dumpster varies according to the size and the frequency of service. The city offers a 96-gallon cart with a monthly cost of $20.08. A 2-cubic-yard dumpster has a $13.70 monthly lease fee and a monthly service fee of $48.09. An 8-cubic-yard dumpster has a monthly lease fee of $21.51 and a service fee of $145.79. The monthly service fee for the trash dumpsters is multiplied by the number of times per week a dumpster is serviced.
Black Apple's audit covered six days and found the business generated about 218 pounds of waste -- about 130 pounds of which could be either composted or recycled.
The largest amount was material to be sent to the Eco-Vista landfill including Styrofoam boxes, disposable plastic utensils, containers with food residue from a business across the street and soiled paper towels.
The report found the business generated about 44 pounds of waste from hibiscus flowers used in brewing, which can be composted. The audit said the amount was likely low because there are usually more tea leaf leftovers from the brewing process. Other material found included cardboard, plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
The audit report suggested substituting reusable plastic food baskets for the Styrofoam boxes and possibly reusable utensils. Other material can be recycled or composted and the report provided information on both options.
Wendy Bland, director of the Benton County Solid Waste District, said she has just recently filled some staff positions and the district will soon begin contacting businesses about the recycling audit program. The district has worked with some larger businesses in the past, including McKee Foods, but will try to interest more small businesses as the district moves forward, she said.
"The larger businesses may have more resources, more people they can draw on in-house for recycling," Bland said. "The smaller businesses may be interested but don't have the information and the resources."
Business recycling audits
The Boston Mountain Solid Waste District is offering free business recycling audits to area businesses. On top of offering recycling services for businesses of all shapes and sizes (from mom and pop shops to manufacturing warehouses), the district also offers help educating employees and patrons. For information on best management practices, increasing and improving signage, holding employee workshops, or simply managing and streamlining waste infrastructure, email the district’s education office at [email protected] .
Source: Boston Mountain Solid Waste District