Friday, October 1, 2010

A personal victory in a recycling sign

The sign to the right I consider a personal victory. It's at a downtown chain restaurant (Cosi) that I occasionally patronize. For a couple of years, it bugged me that there was no place to put my recyclable bottle or can. Madison ordinance requires that there be a place to recycle containers, and both Dane County landfill rules and state law prohibit placing recyclable materials in the landfill.

I politely asked them where I should but my recyclables, and was told to, “Just put it in the trash, our trash hauler will sort it out.” This sounded pretty unlikely to me, so I asked why they didn't just have a place for recyclables. The employee shrugged.

Then by chance I had a private waste hauler leave a message on my home voice mail, mistaking my home number for one of their clients. I called them back to let the person know that they had not reached the person they thought, and then said, “Say, can I ask you a question while I have you on the phone?”

I inquired if they did indeed sort out recyclables from the trash they picked up. The woman on the other end of the phone guffawed and confirmed by suspicions that this answer was a load of BS. “As a matter of fact, businesses have to actually contract with us separately to pick up recyclables, it's not automatically part of the waste hauling contract.” She also told me that many small businesses, including restaurants, chose not to contract for this service, and claim that they will deal with the recyclables themselves.

Yeah, I'm sure they are personally driving the bottles and cans from the business to the recycling center.

So I suggested to the woman from the waste hauler that she might want to add to her business by pointing out that Madison ordinance, Dane County ordinance, and state law all require that businesses and residential buildings provide a receptacle for customers/residents to use for their recyclables, and that all these jurisdictions require that recycling be handled separately and not placed in the landfill. She should have easily been able to sign up many of her reluctant clients to have recycling handled by her company with an implication that not separating the trash was illegal.

And back at Cosi, I wrote a polite email to the management asking them to please provide a place for recycling, so that their customers could do the right thing.

So that's why I consider this sign a personal victory. Even if it wasn't me, I'm claiming credit.

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