Sustainable Connections program shrinks waste streams and expenses

Sustainable Connections is expanding its waste reduction program for businesses and hoping to help 50 businesses cut their waste in half.

Since starting its Toward Zero Waste program five years ago, the nonprofit has helped more than 350 businesses reduce waste by increasing their recycling and composting. A $30,000 grant from Alcoa Foundation will allow Sustainable Connections to enroll 50 more businesses for the program in the next year, said Mark Peterson, sustainable business manager.

The program provides tools, resources, and one-on-one consulting for business owners. It begins with a waste audit from Sanitary Service Company. Other resources include marketing items such as recycling signs, window decals, case studies and posters.

To participate, business owners need to commit to a goal of reducing their waste by 50 percent. Many participating businesses have cut their trash by 80 percent, Peterson said.

“Invariable the businesses that I have worked with so far and have done waste audits with, they are surprised with how easy it is,” he said. “It really is about education and getting systems in place.”

Business owners usually save money on garbage service by participating in Toward Zero Waste, even if they’re not already paying for food waste disposal, Peterson said. By signing up for Sanitary Service Company’s FoodPlus composting program, most businesses can reduce the size of their garbage receptacle and their pickup frequency, he said.

Keeping compostable items out of the trash makes a surprisingly big difference, Peterson said, because “the more homogenous the waste stream is the less space it takes up.”

In the five years since the program began, Peterson said even businesses outside the program have become more aware of composting and other ways to reduce waste. To continue making an impact, Sustainable Connections is fine-tuning Toward Zero Waste.

“Businesses are doing a better job in general, and a lot of them are already involved in the program,” Peterson said. “We’re doing more refining now.”

Construction and food businesses are a priority for the program, Peterson said. Sustainable Connections has toolkits for event planning professionals, construction companies, restaurants and farmers and they’re planning industry specific workshops.

For more information, go to http://sustainableconnections.org/bizdev/tzw, or contact Mark Peterson at Sustainable Connections: Mark@sconnect.org or 360-647-7093 x116.

Oliver Lazenby, associate editor of The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or olazenby@bbjtoday.com

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