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Opinion: Recycling does more for business than boost image

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If you’re a business owner who thinks recycling benefits your image more than your budget, think again.

Yes, you’ve heard all about the environmental benefits of recycling – how it’s the responsible thing to do for the environment and how it helps all those birds, fish and other animals you see on hikes, camping trips and other outdoor treks. Those are good outcomes of improved sustainability. But admit it, your inner-most, never-tell-anyone-else reason you’ve decided to explore recycling options is that it will make your business look good. You’re suspecting recycling won’t move your profit-margin needle that much, but as word spreads about your large ecological soul, it will give you beaucoup stature points in the community.

It’s OK. There’s no shame in wanting to be the cool kid on the local business block. However, if reputation is the main reason you’re thinking about recycling, you’re in for a pleasant surprise: Making the outdoors a better place can help your profits as well as your prestige.

Increasing recycling and reducing office wastes are among a number of sustainability efforts that could make your company eligible to receive financial incentives from federal, state and local governments. Across the nation, an increasing number of companies benefit from incentives in the form of property tax abatements, sales tax exemptions, income tax credits, discretionary grants or low-interest financing.

If you’re looking for testimonials, consider these:

• Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin estimates it saved $13,000 annually when it removed polypropylene surgical sheeting from its waste and began recycling the blue plastic wrap.

• Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) reports an annual savings of $1 million from its recycling program.

• Texas Instruments Inc. (Nasdaq: TXN) recycles 81 percent of its nonhazardous solid waste, which results in a savings of $16 million per quarter.

Businesses in the Springfield area may qualify for grants through the Ozarks Headwaters Recycling & Materials Management District if they can demonstrate that a significant amount of material would be diverted from the landfill through their program. This type of grant could assist with the purchase of equipment and supplies to make the program successful.

Moving from economics to the environment brings us to more rewards. Recycling helps wildlife both directly and indirectly. Reducing the amount of material that goes into the trash reduces the items that wildlife tries to ingest or becomes entangled in when they get to the local landfill. On a broader basis, it helps preserve habitats by reducing the need to expand drilling operations, mining, timber harvests, landfill space and other activities involved in the creation or disposal (via the trash) of materials that could be recycled.

And let’s be clear – the recycling we do here in the Ozarks is not only about saving species and habitats in far-off places of the world. It’s also about keeping our water quality good so fishing at Table Rock Lake or floating on the James River can continue to be enjoyable experiences. It’s about keeping our terrestrial habitats clean enough to support small box turtles and big bucks, striped skunks and spotted salamanders, red foxes, bluebirds, and all the other animals that make our outdoors wonderful.

One more thing about recycling’s “prestige” aspect. One sector of the public that appreciates businesses that are trying to do right by the environment are customers, particularly here in the Ozarks where many people hold our outdoor resources near and dear. Businesses that are environmentally conscious will be appreciated and – most importantly – patronized by customers eager to support environmental stewards.

A full list of area resources is posted to Ozarks Headwaters Recycling’s website at Recycle417.com/resources.

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. He can be reached at francis.skalicky@mdc.mo.gov.

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