'Green' companies create less trash, more community good will


September 30, 1991|By Adriane Miller | Adriane Miller,Special to The Sun

Rutabagas, poultry pieces and cornflakes may be Andrew Klein's business, but lately his thoughts have been focused on cardboard.

Mr. Klein's chain of four Kleins Super Thrift markets in Harford County recycles cardboard cartons from grocery deliveries. And goes a step further, collecting, compacting, baling and recycling used cartons from nearby stores.

"The smaller tenants in our shopping centers get a lot of cardboard deliveries, but they really have no way to recycle cardboard," explains President Andrew Klein. "And cardboard really fills up the landfills."

Kleins, an example of the greening of American industry, is among a growing number of companies that are recycling or reusing much of the waste they create. Through their efforts, say waste management authorities, "green companies" also are boosting employee morale and earning community good will.

Still, as good as recycling sounds, some business owners say slow sales have dimmed plans to clean up their companies.

"The recession has hurt some recycling efforts," Mr. Klein admits. "People are out there just looking for business right now. They're concerned about maintaining retail market share and volume."

Yet Elliot M. Kaplan, co-author of "The Solution to Pollution in the Workplace" with Laurence Sombke and Terry M. Robertson, says companies that become more environmentally aware can actually improve corporate profits.

For example, New York-based Home Box Office & Co. (HBO) "spent a fortune keeping its office supplied with [plastic foam] coffee cups, which of course are poison for the environment," until the company bought each of its 1,100 employees a ceramic mug, Mr. Kaplan says.

"Over the year, HBO is spending $450 less on trash, and at the same time they are getting a tremendous amount of respect from their employees," who get a kick out of having a personal mug to use, Mr. Kaplan says.

His own Kansas City, Mo., law firm has made minor changes in office customs that resulted in major savings.

"In most companies, you only use one side of paper in copying," he says. "In our firm, we use both sides. We put a line through the old side, then put the paper back in the copy system. For 20 lawyers that saves $5,000 a year in paper."

G. Heileman Brewing Co. Inc. in Halethorpe has what the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management calls a "model recycling program."

It recycles everything it can, from glass, aluminum, packing material and office paper to grains and yeast it uses in production of beer, says John Gaustead, brewery manager.

"Eventually we hope to be a non-generator of waste," he says.

The company sells or gives away its waste to brokers, who in turn sell it to others. Used or "spent" grains from making beer become a supplement for cattle feed. Spent yeast becomes fish feed, or is added to canned condensed soups. Spent yeast also is used in prescription diet supplements.

Not all of Heileman's recycled refuse has value.

"Basically we're giving our glass away," Mr. Gaustead says. "We used to get 55 to 60 cents a pound for aluminum, and now, 5 cents a pound. I think we get $5 a ton for scrap paper. But [giving it away] is better than putting it into a landfill."

Regardless of its size and resources, every company can build a recycling program, write the authors of "The Solution to Pollution in the Workplace." Here are a few of their ideas:

* Appoint an environmental coordinator so all decisions don't have to be made by committee. Give that person authority to speak for the company on recycling and environmental matters.

* Develop a companywide recycling policy. Set standards that fit the company, standards company employees can live with.

* Ask a local recycling center for help in getting started with a corporate program.

Baltimore County's Waste Management Division publishes a lengthy list of commercial waste recycling and transporting facilities that serve area businesses. Eugene Siewierski, Waste Management Division director, says the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority helps companies evaluate recycling options for waste they generate.

In Harford County, the Susquehannock Environmental Center invites inquiries from companies that want to recycle, but don't know where to begin.

"We'll go out to any company, go through their operation, and take a look at their waste flow to

recommend things they can do," says Carol Jones, a Susquehannock spokeswoman.

* Conserve office paper, and recycle what is used.

"For each ton of office paper we recycle," write "Solution" authors, "17 trees are saved from the ax, and three cubic yards of landfill are not filled up."

Mr. Kaplan says he recently eyed a cardboard box for recycling paper in the office of Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee A. Iacocca. "If Lee Iacocca can adapt himself to recycling paper behind his desk, I don't know why everyone can't."

Use scratch paper for in-house memos. Consider carefully whether every person on your distribution list really needs their own copy of your memo.

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