Since February, the ReWorksSA initiative has assisted 100 local businesses as they make steps toward commercial recycling.
Brian Halverson, environmental services manager at San Antonio’s Solid Waste Management, said the ReWorksSA initiative was created after San Antonio City Council adopted the Recycling and Resource Recovery Plan.
“One of the three goals in there includes improving recycling opportunities for businesses, so that is really the emphasis behind [ReWorksSA],” Halverson said. “Helping to make it easier, more affordable and helping businesses overcome obstacles to help them recycle.”
ReWorksSA uses their website, certifications, consultations and a container assistance program to make recycling easier for businesses across the city. Since January 2017, 14 businesses have been certified, 300 containers have been delivered to eight businesses, and 100 consultations have been conducted.
ReWorksSA’s certification program essentially ranks local businesses with existing recycling programs on a scale of bronze, silver and gold. The status is earned based on the businesses' sustainability efforts. Business owners interested in starting a recycling program can request a consultation in which a representative inspects their business, takes a sample of their waste and determines the most effective recycling program for the company.
While Andrew Dobbs, program director at Texas Campaign for the Environment, said ReWorksSA is a great program, he said it is not enough to make a substantial difference.
“If this is actually important to the people of San Antonio and if the city government of San Antonio wants to make this a priority, then they should do what works and pass an ordinance requiring commercial recycling,” Dobbs said. “Having [ReWorksSA] as an add-on to mandatory recycling is a great idea, but by itself it’s not going to accomplish the things that need to be done.”
Within the last two years Austin has passed an ordinance that requires commercial and multi-family properties to provide access to recycling for their employees, according to Program Manager with Austin Resource Recovery Tina Bui.
“We have properties demonstrate compliance to us with a form that provides information on what they are doing to meet the requirements,” Bui said. “The actual submission rate of those plans is high at 85 percent for commercial property. We do this throughout the fiscal year and we don’t usually hit that number until the fall, so we are doing really well right now.”
Austin has a certification program similar to ReWorksSA called Austin Green Business Leaders, where companies are ranked on a bronze, silver and gold scale. Bui said programs like these are essential because even if a recycling ordinance is passed, businesses tend to perform better when they have incentives.
City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said ReWorksSA is beneficial because it can help business owners overcome the hurdles that often accompany implementing recycling practices.
“Even if we went straight into an ordinance we would need to do some of these additional steps to make it happen,” Sandoval said. “I think ReWorksSA is a great first step. If for some reason we find that this doesn’t help everyone recycle, we can consider additional steps.”
While the initiative is still in its early phases, Halverson said the team at ReWorksSA is making efforts to promote their resources to the community.
“We are off to a good start,” Halverson said. “It is pretty early and kind of difficult to tell if we are having an impact but [ReWorksSA] is really built to be a multi-year program. It is going to take a while because recycling is a really cultural activity and it takes a while to change the direction of a culture.”
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