Northwest Arkansas Forum Speakers Say Information Boosts Recycling
FAYETTEVILLE – The growth of recycling in the local business community depends in part on marketing and motivation, according to panelists in an online forum Tuesday.
The Northwest Arkansas Council created the Onward Ozarks Lecture Series to provide organizations, businesses and individuals with a platform to share news, events and other information with a regional audience, according to the Council’s website. Randy Wilburn, host of the “I Am Northwest Arkansas” podcast, hosts the series.
Tuesday’s event, hosted via Zoom, featured Joe Tucker, vice president of business development at eSCO Processing and Recycling at Rogers, a company that processes electronic devices for reuse and recycling. Faeyan Whittle, director of sustainability at the Pack Rat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville, was also on the panel; Heather Ellzey, environmental educator with the town of Fayetteville; and Tom Rohr, CEO of Food Loops, a Rogers company that works with companies to compost food waste and other products.
Each panelist explained what they are doing and how it relates to the Northwest Arkansas corporate recycling effort. Northwest Arkansas Council is spearheading a project to encourage recycling and the growth of a circular economy.
A circular economy is an economy in which materials are recycled and reused, as opposed to a linear economy where materials are used once and thrown away, according to a study carried out as part of the council’s efforts. An example of a circular economy is the recycling of food waste in which the original food products are used and the food waste recycled and used to produce more food.
Fayetteville works in food waste recycling as well as more traditional recycling programs for homes and businesses, Ellzey said. Much of his work involves education on how these programs work. She gave an example of the recycling program, saying the plastics market right now is such that the city can only recycle # 1 and # 2 plastic bottles.
Ellzey said material balls can’t include different types of plastics, for example, because they have different melting temperatures. The material can be rejected if there is too much contamination, she said.
âOur buyers are very picky,â Ellzey said.
Whittle said the recycling effort at the Pack Rat center is less formal. The company makes recycling information available to people based on the experiences employees have gained through their work, she said.
“It’s about collecting information and making it available,” she said.
Whittle said the company is making the information available at the hub and through social media. She said it’s a very informal process.
âUsually people are just there to shop in the store, and we have these conversations,â she said. “It’s a very organic experience.”
Tucker said the electronics recycling industry has several layers that may not exist in more traditional recycling. Businesses want to be sure that their business data is deleted from devices, he said. After that, the devices can be refurbished for reuse or disassembled to recover materials that can be recycled, he said.
âElectronics are not aluminum cans,â he said. “It’s not a clean piece of cardboard. We turn a difficult material into a raw material that has value.”
Panelists agreed that recycling stems from different motivations and that what resonates with one person or group may not affect others.
Ellzey said she often focuses on resource conservation, sustainability and preserving the planet for future generations during her presentations. She added that it helps when she can show a business that recycling can benefit them financially.
Tucker agreed that showing how recycling fits into a business model works. He said he tries to show how his business makes money and how his clients save money.
Rohr said that while money is important, it’s also important to create a culture that values âârecycling, which he says hasn’t happened in Northwest Arkansas.
âMaybe you can save some money in Fayetteville, but in the rest of Northwest Arkansas it’s very cheap to throw something away,â he said.
More information on resource recycling in Northwest Arkansas is available at the nwarecycles.org website, a joint effort of the Northwest Arkansas Council and the County Solid Waste Districts of Benton and Boston Mountain.
Source: staff report