Restaurants Throw Their Weight Behind Recycling Effort

January 05, 1992|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,Contributing writer

At the Georgetown North restaurant in Bel Air, 600 to 700 pounds of glass are placed in bins for recycling each week.

Owner Gary Clarkhas bought a truck specifically to haul the glass to a central recycling center because no local trash haulers offer separate collection of recyclables.

He's also working with distributors to provide returnable beer bottles as another way to cut down the waste. Currently, Georgetown North returns 1,500 to 1,800 returnable bottles a week.

"We can buy returnables cheaper," Clark says. "It's a little more of a hassle and more work to recycle. With the returnables they just pick up the empties when they make a delivery. Unfortunately, some things aren't available in returnables. For example, Budweiser is, but Bud Light isn't.We're trying to get more people to switch to the returnable bottles."

Georgetown North is just one of a growing number of Harford restaurants that save huge volumes of glass, aluminum and plastic containers for recycling.

Doing so requires planning and some expenses. Along with purchasing a truck, Clark says he also bought containers for the glass bottles.

The containers have been stolen but that hasn't deterred him.

"You have to recycle," Clark says. "Money is not a factor in this. It's the environment."

Mary Zorbach, manager of MacGregor's restaurant in Havre De Grace, also has organized a recycling effort at the establishment.

She's zeroed in on plastic bottles, such as the ones cleaning supplies and condiments come in. "We recycle with a lot of employee input. It's on a personal basis here," she says.

There's no pickup for recyclables near the restaurant, so Zorbach takes the containers home with her for curbside pickup by a trash hauler serving her neighborhood.

If John Keller, recycling project manager for the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, had his way, recycling of glass, aluminum and plastic would be the norm, not the exception, at restaurants.

Local owners estimate that more than 2,000 recyclable containers are used in an average restaurantevery week.

"I don't think any segment of society should be exempt," Keller says, noting that while the community at large has been active in recycling efforts, restaurants have been overlooked as a logical segment to tap.

The Restaurant Association of Maryland has arranged for Browning Ferris Industries to offer a 5 percent discount ontrash pickup to Baltimore restaurants that separate their recyclables.

Keller, along with the restaurant association, has been encouraging more restaurants to reduce waste through recycling.

The association says it hopes restaurants in Harford will take a cue from those in the city and start recycling efforts.

But without a formal recycling program, some Harford restaurant owners find it difficult to recycle.

Michael Hill, manager at the Colonel's Choice in Aberdeen, cites storage limitations and cost as the main obstacles to recycling.

"It would be somewhat difficult to recycle," he said. "There are problems with storage and preparation, along with the added time."

Keller admits there are difficulties in recycling but says that it's not impossible.

"Some of the problems are realistic. But despite all those concerns, it's in the restaurant's best interest to recycle," he said. "Management has to support and follow up on a program,identifying materials to be recycled, separating them, setting up a collection system, and training people to follow the program."

BobChance, spokesman for the Susquehannock Environmental Center in Bel Air, which operates a drop-off site for a wide range of recyclables, agrees with Keller.

"It's not easy to do," he says. "But what better way to show the public about recycling than in restaurants? Especially in bars, where customers can see the containers and can see people separating bottles and cans.

"Maybe when they see that, it willgenerate more interest in community recycling," he says.

Holly Thompson, owner of Souvenir's restaurant in Bel Air, has put Chance's message to practice.

A former student of Chance's environmental science class at Bel Air High School, Thompson says Souvenirs is recycling 10 to 20 50-gallon drums of glass a week.

"I was always bothered by all the things we threw out that could be recycled. Sometimes it's a problem, but it's something that has to be done," she says.

As for Andy Hendrickson, a bartender at Hummers Bar at the Dock of theBay restaurant in Fallston, recycling means money. Many recycling centers will pay for recyclables.

Hendrickson saves empty aluminum cans at the bar to drop off for cash at a local recycling center.

On an average night, Hendrickson collects three garbage bags of cans.

"It's not much of a hassle to save them," he says. "Whenever someone is done with a can I just toss it in."

Just how much money is there in recycling aluminum cans?

Hendrickson says he plans to put an addition on his house with the money he's collecting from recycling cans that otherwise would have been thrown away at the restaurant.

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