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The paper trail: how to start a recycling program at your business.

Four plain-and-simple facts from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality make a compelling case for implementing a recycling program at your business:

* A typical business office generates about 1.5 pounds of wastepaper per employee per day. Financial businesses generate over two pounds per employee per day.

* Nearly half of typical office paper waste is comprised of high-grade office paper for which there is a strong recycling demand.

* Commercial and residential paper waste accounts for more than 40 percent of waste currently being sent to landfills.

* Every recycled ton of paper saves approximately 17 trees.

Once you've made the decision to recycle, it's important to do a "waste assessment" to find out exactly what kind of waste you're generating. If you're like most small business owners, the bulk of your office waste consists of high-grade white or off-white paper like copy paper, letterhead and note paper. This is the kind of paper that can be recycled into high-grade bond paper.

The rest of your paper probably consists of what recyclers call a "mixed paper," or a combination of many types of paper, including bond, colored paper, manila folders, envelopes with clear plastic windows, carbon paper and even paper cups and plates. This kind of paper can be recycled even if it has a limited number of paper clips, staples and sticky notes affixed to it. Once these metals have been removed by the recycler, mixed paper can be remanufactured into tissue products.

Then there's Styrofoam, which presents problems of its own.

"Styrofoam has so much volume but so little weight that there's not much money in it for recyclers," says Ramsey Zimmerman, executive director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition. "Companies should use or ask their suppliers to use alternative packing materials like corrugated cardboard and paper egg crate material instead because they can be recycled."

Zimmerman also recommends reusing Styrofoam packing "peanuts" for your own packaging, or returning them to a mailing center where they can be reused. Many mailers will accept them at no charge. Just call ahead to make sure your offering will be welcome.

"Recycling is a very altruistic activity," says Lucy Doroshko, a recycling coordinator with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in Lansing. "It actually can improve morale because employees feel good knowing they're doing the right thing for the environment."

But it's more than a touchy-feely issue. Paying attention to product reuse and reduction in the workplace can make a significant impact on a company's resources.

"You always want to find out if there's a way you can reduce the amount of paper you're generating before you recycle," Doroshko says. "Promote double-sided copying, or establish a dedicated draft print so paper that has printing on just one side can be reused. Using paper more wisely also reduces the amount you have to buy, so you'll save money."

Saving documents on floppy disks or e-mailing documents rather than sending paper through the mail are other effective ways to reduce your paper output (and postage costs).

In the shredder

There are many waste paper recyclers in the phone book, but it can be difficult to find a company that will handle small business accounts because they recycle a much smaller quantity of paper than do institutions like banks, hospitals or automotive plants. One company that does welcome small business accounts is Secure EcoShred of Southfield. Secure not only will pick up paper waste, but also will shred it right on the premises to safeguard confidential materials.

"You take a big risk throwing things away," says Steve Kalapos, president of Secure. "Identity theft is a big problem, and companies can be held liable if confidential information gets out. Shredding before recycling reduces your risk."

Once you have a recycling program in place, Doroshko says that ongoing education is necessary to keep your employees committed. Giving regular feedback about how much paper or other waste is recycled is an effective way to keep their interest high. (You can do this by gauging how your paper costs have dropped or by asking the recycling company to provide a report on your recycling activity.) Also, make sure all recycling bins are located in accessible locations. You know the old saying: out of sight, out of mind, which certainly applies when it comes to a voluntary program like paper recycling.

"Office paper recycling isn't rocket science, but it still takes a certain amount of education," says MDEQ's Doroshko. "Even a program that started out with a big bang can lose momentum because new people are hired or a new type of paper has to be handled differently. You have to remind employees periodically why you're recycling and how their efforts are helping the environment."

Pollution reduction loans

The Michigan Deportment of Environmental Quality offers small business loon programs to help employers reduce pollution. Loans are available for up to $100,000 at a rote of 5 percent.

For information, call (517) 241-8280, or log on to:

Recycling resource guide

Where to go for more information on recycling:

MDEQ Environmental Assistance Center

(800) 662-9278

Michigan Recycling Coalition

(517) 371-7073

Nationwide Environmental Recycling Hotline

(800) CLEAN-UP

Recycler's World

Waste Reduction Information Network

(517) 485-9746

Eileen Figure Sandlin is a freelance writer.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Detroit Regional Chamber
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Environment
Author:Sandlin, Eileen Figure
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Previous Article:Who, us? Yes, you! Here's how one company got its ISO act together.
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