Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Voluntarily going green: A Bath business decides to step up recycling, though it doesn't have to

Times Record


BATH — Inside the signature red and gold of the McDonald's in Bath, there's a hint of green. As a business, the fast food restaurant isn't subject to the city's relatively new pay-per-bag trash disposal program — which encourages recycling by forcing residents to pay a fee for each bag of garbage they leave curbside for pick-up, while the recycling bins are emptied free.

But store manager Mark Fraser has decided to get the Golden Arches on board with increased recycling anyway, and Bath public works officials say there may be a lesson for smaller business owners in the chain branch's initiative.

"Let's forget about being 'green' for a moment, forget about saving landfill space — it saves money," said Lee Leiner, deputy director of the city's Public Works Department. "You can say, 'It's McDonald's, it's a multinational corporation, they're not really saving that much in the overall scheme of things,' but a couple hundred bucks a month is pretty substantial to a small business owner."

Fraser began putting out blue recycling bins near the restaurant's trash receptacles, and prominantly listing the items that could be placed in the bins instead of the trash cans. The list includes much of what the average fast food customer throws away, like empty French fry and sandwich boxes, receipts, relatively clean tray liners, Happy Meal boxes and milk cartons.

So far, Fraser said, only about 10 percent of the customers have caught on. But behind the counter — where store employees recycle storage containers, egg crates and plastic pickle boxes, among other things — the effort has cut the restaurant's total garbage output in half.

"Before we started recycling, we had 16 cubic yards of trash per week," he said. "Now we're down to eight."

The difference is that the store's trash Dumpster, which used to be emptied twice a week, is now emptied only once. That adds up to about $200 in savings a month, said Fraser. At 95 cents apiece, that could buy more than seven cheeseburgers a day.

"Our recycling Dumpster is bigger than our trash Dumpster now," he said.

Joe Breisacher, who owns both the Bath McDonald's and the franchise at Cooks Corner in Brunswick, gives Fraser all the credit for the success of the recycling effort.

"He's gung-ho about it," said Breisacher. "When he sees somebody with something in their hand, he'll remind them, 'Recycle it! Recycle it!' It's amazing, when you put it all together, how much you can recycle."

Leiner said similar programs could benefit other businesses as well.

"The business community is not a formal part of the recycling program," he said. "When a business like McDonald's calls me and says, 'Can you help me recycle more?' I say, 'Sure,' because it's in the best interests of the city and it's in the best interests of the business. For a business person, that saves them money — that to me, links the green of money with the green of the environment."

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