As part of its Clean, Safe and Green component, the Berlin Main Street Program recently donated $2,000 to Grow Berlin Green to research commercial recycling methods.
The measure is timely as several Berlin restaurants have recently expressed an interest in making recycling a simpler task. Currently, Berlin businesses that choose to recycle must use the small drop off location on William Street, or travel to the Recycling Center on Flower Street. The first option is at the center of town, but the containers there are not made to hold commercial volume, and the second option requires a considerable amount of effort to transport the items. Neither option is easy, which does little to encourage the practice.
Contrast that to the nearby town of Ocean City, which provides collection services to businesses that recycle office paper, cardboard, glass and aluminum. A town ordinance there makes it mandatory for businesses with on-site liquor consumption licenses to recycle glass and aluminum.
Berlin restaurateurs looking for help with recycling program should be commended, but it will take time until a plan is in place. In the meantime they can take small steps to limit what goes in the landfill. Disposable napkins, utensils or placemats should be changed to reusable items whenever possible, and products should be bought in bulk to reduce package waste.
Still, restaurants often generate significant quantities of glass, aluminum, steel, plastics and corrugated cardboard, which should all be recycled. Consider just these few statistics:
• Every glass bottle recycled saves enough energy to burn a 100 watt light bulb for four hours.
• It takes 95 percent less energy to make aluminum by recycling it than by producing it from its natural ore.
• Recycling and reusing the material in tin cans alone reduces energy use by 74 percent, air pollution by 85 percent, and solid waste by 95 percent and water pollution by 76 percent.
Finally, business owners (and all of us) should buy recycled products whenever possible. The recycling loop is complete only when materials that have been separated for recycling are processed and remanufactured into new products, which are then sold to consumers. Often referred to as “closing the loop”, buying recycled products is what makes recycling a success.
Even a first grader knows that recycling conserves both raw materials and energy as well as reduces the amount of waste we produce. Recycling has been proven to reduce air and water pollution, lower energy consumption and decrease greenhouse gases emissions linked to global warming.
What proprietors should also keep in mind is that recycling can also be good for the bottom line. Becoming stewards of the environment can attract the growing market of conservation-minded patrons who prefer to spend their money at like-minded establishments. Restaurants that recycle, for example, should promote this on their menus to appeal to customers who recognize and appreciate such an environmentally responsible effort. After all, in today’s challenging economic climate businesses should use every tool available to attract customers which translates to more money in the cash register.